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Good governance and the pandemic

No one ever predicted this pandemic. Yet today, a year on since COVID-19 broke, we are still battling a common enemy that has not only affected all strata and walks of life but stretched public finances to new levels.

As today we commemorate United Nation’s International Anti-Corruption Day, we cannot help not noticing an ironic correlation between the coronavirus pandemic which we believe, is a chapter which will eventually pass, and another far-reaching ‘pandemic’ that still rages on, that is corruption, propagated by a lack of good governance and accountability. For this ‘pandemic’ to be defeated, it will take more than a ‘vaccine’.

This correlation, however, is not a far-fetched or imaginary one. The symptoms are all there. The way the pandemic has crippled economies is joined at the hip by the fact that most of these same economies have failed to curb one of the main symptoms, tax evasion.

Just last week, the global advocacy group Tax Justice Network (TJN) was reported stating that globally, around $472 billion are being lost every year to tax abuse by firms and individuals and called on G20 to tighten its rules to curb this massive loss.

$472 billion is only a fraction of the estimated $8.8 trillion that covid-19 will have cost the world, however it goes without saying, that those same $472 billion would have been better spent on research and development, or to help those economies and people who were worst hit.

The TJN chief executive also stated that “the pandemic has exposed the grave cost of turning tax policy into a tool for indulging tax abusers instead of for protecting people’s wellbeing” adding rather succinctly that “a global tax system that loses over $427 billion a year is not a broken system, but a system programmed to fail.”

On the other hand, it is a pity that it must be a crisis to make us aware of the real costs of tax abuse and corruption when the right frameworks for good governance keep being deliberately left incomplete.

There have been countless times when governments have been accused of programming the global tax system to prioritise the desires of the wealthiest corporations and individuals over the needs of everybody else. So why does the current situation persist?

Probably, because it takes huge political will for governments and leaders to put a definitive stop to such abuse. A certain type of political will which seems to be very lacking, especially at a point in time when we surely need it most.

In such absence of political will, companies, organisations, and individuals must understand that the application of principles of good governance is increasingly becoming a defining trait especially in the light of the huge financial and environmental scandals around the world.

Within this context, the idea of corporate good governance as an active and tangible commitment to the values of social responsibility redefines the meaning of corporate social responsibility and gives it a renewed relevance.

In the face of questionable policy decisions in the recent past, this is a much-needed shift which we must fully embrace. We also need to encourage and reward all those who publicly stand up, both individually and collaboratively, in favour of transparency, accountability and the rule of law – the three pillars on which sound principles of good governance are nurtured.

In our commitment to fight corruption and advocate for the value of good governance, we cannot just stop at pointing fingers at the outside world. We all know that we need to start tackling this issue by looking first and foremost at ourselves.

If we are to be serious in our fight against corruption, there needs to first be a national consensus and admission that corruption exists. Next comes a collective stand against corruption. That is when corruption can be truly challenged and fought, through education, a change in culture and a much-needed political will!

Andrew Naudi is Director at Getgovernanz

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