Taking a robust stance on bribery

Foreign Secretary, Government of the United Kingdom

Bribery is a modern day scourge on international trade. At a time when so many people are struggling through an economic downturn, bribery is a very real disease threatening our prosperity. It poses a serious challenge to the development of economies and contributes to market failure. It distorts competition, damages free enterprise and blights business. It stifles talent and innovation and kills entrepreneurship. In many cases it is the poorest in society who are hit the hardest

For business, bribery is a threat that needs to be actively managed, like fraud or embezzlement. Corruption adds up to 10% to the total cost of doing business globally, and up to 25% of the cost of procurement contracts in developing countries.

Doing business in corrupt markets has been found to add costs equivalent to a 20% tax on business. In 2010 and 2008, roughly a fifth of surveyed executives reported that they had been asked to pay a bribe, with a similar proportion reporting that they had lost business to a competitor who paid bribes.

Social costs invariably come hand in hand with costs to business–detrimental effects to employment, health, education and a wasteful depletion of natural resources.

The UK Bribery Act, which came into force on 1 July, is an important step in Britain’s efforts to combat bribery. The Act will equip the UK courts with some of the most robust anti-bribery legislation in the world. The Act consolidates and brings up to date previous legislation and introduces two new general offences of giving bribes or receiving bribes: an offence of bribery of foreign public officials for business reasons, and an offence relating to commercial organisations which fail to prevent bribery committed on their behalf.

Taking a robust stance on bribery will not just tackle the scourge, but it will act as a spur to business. Robust action against bribery will strengthen free market forces. It will fuel competition and will ensure consumers and the public get a fairer, better deal. Prices come down, services improve and business grows. But most of all a tough stance against bribery will attract business and investment rather than deter it.

Business agrees with us. They too would like to see the scourge of bribery removed from business transactions. They will also want to see fair play by everyone and a level playing field for all. All the leading businesses and business organisations in the UK have made clear they want to see an end to this problem.

This is not just a problem for the West or the leading economies in the world. Bribery does even more damage to developing countries that can least afford it. Developing countries face enough of a struggle to build economies, create proper tax systems, provide public services like health and education, and stimulate growth. Bribery adds costs, cheats the system and steals money. It traps people and countries in poverty.

I call on other countries to look hard at their own laws and regulations on bribery and to take tough action against it. The more that join with us to fight this scourge the quicker we will beat it. Many countries already have tough laws on bribery but there is no doubt more can be done to make them stronger and also enforce them fully.

The OECD has led international efforts to tackle bribery across the world and should be commended for their efforts thus far. The UN Convention against Corruption is another important international agreement in the fight to build stronger economies and societies. There are many other organisations such as the G20 joining in the effort to tackle this problem and the UK is keen to work with them all. I firmly believe that the UK Bribery Act will do more to support business and our trade with the world. But the UK cannot succeed alone. Only by global action, only through determined leadership, and only through government action in OECD countries and elsewhere and through the support of business will we make possible the prosperous future we all want to see.

References

Ernst & Young (2008), 10th global fraud survey. Visit www.ey.com

Grant Thornton (2010), Decision time: The UK Bribery Act and the changing face of business, Anti-Corruption Survey 2010.

Data also come from various World Bank and UN reports.

See also www.oecd.org/corruption

©OECD Observer No 285, Q2 2011




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive print editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • “Nizip” refugee camp visit
    July 2016: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría visits the “Nizip” refugee camp, situated between Gaziantep and the Turkish-Syrian border, accompanied by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek. The camp accommodates a small number of the 2.75 million Syrians currently registered in Turkey, mostly outside the camps. In his tour of the camp, Mr Gurría visits a school, speaks with refugees and gives a short interview.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • Queen Maxima of the Netherlands gives a speech next to Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (not pictured) during the International Forum of Financial Inclusion at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico June 21, 2016.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • OECD Environment Director Simon Upton presented a talk at Imperial College London on 21 April 2016. With the world awash in surplus oil and prices languishing around US$40 per barrel, how can governments step up efforts to transform the world’s energy systems in line with the Paris Agreement?
  • Happy 10th birthday to Twitter. This 2008 OECD Observer interview with Henry Copeland said you’d do well.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Once migrants reach Europe, countries face integration challenge: OECD's Thomas Liebig speaks to NPR's Audie Cornish.

  • Message from the International Space Station to COP21

  • COP21 Will Get Agreement With Teeth: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría on Bloomberg

  • The carbon clock is ticking: OECD’s Gurría on CNBC

  • If we want to reach zero net emissions by the end of the century, we must align our policies for a low-carbon economy, put a price on carbon everywhere, spend less subsidising fossil fuels and invest more in clean energy. OECD at #COP21 – OECD statement for #COP21
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • Pole to Paris Project
  • In order to face global warming, Asia needs at least $40 billion per year, derived from both the public and private sector. Read how to bridge the climate financing gap on the Asian Bank of Development's website.
  • How can cities fight climate change?
    Discover projects in Denmark, Canada, Australia, Japan and Mexico.
  • Climate: What's changed, what hasn't, what we can do about it.
    Lecture by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, hosted by the London School of Economics and Aviva Investors in association with ClimateWise, London, UK, 3 July 2015.

  • Climate change: “We should not disagree when scientists tell us we have a window of opportunity–10-15 years–to turn this thing around” argues Senator Bernie Sanders.

  • In the long-run, the EU benefits from migration, says OECD Head of International Migration Division Jean-Christophe Dumont.
  • Is technological progress slowing down? Is it speeding up? At the OECD, we believe the research from our Future of ‪Productivity‬ project helps to resolve this paradox.
  • Is inequality bad for growth? That redistribution boosts economies is not established by the evidence says FT economics editor Chris Giles. Read more on www.ft.com.
  • Catherine Mann, OECD Chief Economist, explains on Bloomberg why "too much bank lending can slow economic growth".
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

Poll

What issue are you most concerned about in 2016?

Unemployment
Euro crisis
International conflict
Global warming
Other

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2016