Raising salary will not eliminate graft

Letters, Normal

THE political class in PNG is largely populated by “criminals”. If readers doubt me, they need only look at Transparency International’s rating of PNG, which has been ranked even more corrupt than China and India.
Elections come and go.
But corruption is constant; it never seems to go away.
Some have suggested, however, that the way to eliminate corruption is to boost public sector salaries.
It is hoped by paying government officials higher salary will make them less tempted to take bribes.
But there is no logic in this argument. At what point do we draw the line?
In Singapore, for instance, senior ministers receive about S$1 million a year.
Sure, corruption is low in Singapore because the people have integrity and corruption is a major crime.
There is really nothing stopping government employees from taking money regardless of how wealthy they are.
The one thing we can be confident of is that individuals will pursue their self-interest and as long as the probability of detection is low, political corruption will continue.
Take Indonesia for example. Although salary for the judiciary was raised, it remains the most corrupt institution in Indonesia.
Increasing salaries just ends up rewarding bad behaviour.
What we need is a policy that is guaranteed to get the job done.
A necessary condition for corruption is someone has the power to make decisions for others, decisions that those others cannot perfectly monitor.
The reason so much corruption occurs in government is because government officials hand out so much in the form of subsidies, tax breaks, permits and regulatory exceptions.
Therefore, the way to reduce corruption is to remove discretionary powers that can cause bribery.
Now we are in a position to understand why countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia have achieved such success in stamping out corruption; they invariably tend to prioritise the market economy, at least in comparison to PNG.
The other argument often used in favour of raising salaries is “we should pay public sector employees more because this will attract the best and brightest into politics”.
This is an equally nonsensical argument.
Why would we want to encourage PNG’s smartest men and women to enter politics?
It is better to have them in the private sector where they actually create something of value.
Bill Gates has done more to improve the standard of living for the common man through his work in Microsoft than all the prime ministers of PNG combined.

James Larsen