It is a common understanding in Nepal that everyone in the country is corrupt. Be that bureaucrat or businessman, politician or physician, lawyer or lawmaker, academician or architect, judge or journalist, or any profession or person you name it, is corrupt on prima-facie. The onus of proving otherwise entirely lies on you, should you choose to do so. If you point to someone claiming that he may not be a corrupt, every eyebrow is raised and instant conclusion would be: that could not have happened by integrity but due to sheer lack of opportunity. In every sense, corruption is our national character, thus a national identity.
Nepal has made several efforts to curb corruption and bribery. It has enacted several laws, instituted constitutional bodies like CIAA and invited international NGOs like Transparency International. But the corrupt practices could hardly be reduced. Instead, the investors and businessmen complain that measures like anti-money laundering has caused massive capital flight and investment is shying away due to provisions like declaration of source of income. Therefore, these hurdles have become serious bottlenecks on economic growth and prosperity of the country.
Human civilization has taken many bold decisions to streamline very difficult trades and behaviour. Everybody would agree that prostitution is not a good thing. But secretly everybody would like to extract the pleasure bestowed by this profession. Nobody feels same sex marriages are natural. But many countries have legalized both the sex trade and same sex marriages. There is no reason why corruption should be treated in a different way than the prostitution. Besides, it has many similar characteristics. You are honest until you are caught in the act and everybody enjoys the more of it, clandestinely.
For Nepal, it is an opportune moment to do this bold thing as we are writing a new constitution. We have the opportunity not only to legalize but also to constitutionalize both corruption and bribery. My recommendation is that let’s make the right to corruption as part of the fundamental rights in the new constitution.
The benefits would be immense. Nepal truly will be as Switzerland as it used to be some decades ago: a true haven for all ill-gotten money of the world. All the money that is now concealed under pillows of the corrupts will be taken out. Money sent abroad will be brought back and there will be open rates of commission in government offices for providing services or approving tenders for public procurement. Just to repeat, since everybody is already charged of this lucre, what's the harm on just lifting the curtain from it?
The FDI would flood in and Nepal will enter into an unprecedented phase of growth and development. Country's administrative cost will drastically reduce, as we no longer need the institutions like CIAA, Vigilance Centre, Anti-Money Laundering Department and Special Court. The load of cases in the courts of law will be far less and policemen can directly ask money from the public for nothing without going through the trouble of creating one or another pretext. So much so, constitutionalizing corruption would also help make entire Nepal instantly educated since if corruption and bribery are legalized even an illiterate can buy a BA or an MA passed certificates at one's will.
This will make our bureaucracy more contended and happy. Government official will not scramble to get their posting to customs points and tax offices when every office will have freedom to collect as much bribe as possible. Politicians in the district who are swallowing entire development budget in collusion with different experts will be relieved of responsibility of creating stacks of fake papers.
As the country now reels under uncertainty in absence of a powerful binding agenda for consensus, the proposal to insert the corruption and bribery as the fundamental right in the constitution could be one such issue that can bring all politicians together. We know everybody loves money and whenever there is question of monetary benefit, there were seldom any discord among them.
Our lawmakers should seriously consider incorporating this provision in the new constitution. I am sure, all six hundred and one members of the Constituent Assembly will vote for it. This will be the dawn of new era on absolute national consensus.