Cost Of Corruption

Tuesday, July 22 2008

Taxpayers are spending P22 million a year just to house nearly 2,000 vote counting machines that cannot be used. Taxpayers are also spending about $20 million a year as "commitment fee" for a 20-year loan totaling over $1 billion from the Chinese government. This is on top of P1 million a day in interest for the initial $112 million of the loan, from which the Philippines is supposed to draw funding for the Northrail project.

The loan took effect on Sept. 13, 2004, but actual work on the project did not start until April 12 the next year, with completion targeted for Oct. 31, 2007. As the nation now knows, the project is already much delayed, with Chinese contractor China National Machinery and Equipment Group reportedly threatening to pull out if the government would not shoulder additional costs. Amid reports that CNMEG is demanding another $300 million for the project, some quarters suspect that the amount is to compensate for higher commissions demanded by influential crooks.

Filipinos are painfully familiar with such massive costs incurred due to corruption, inefficiency or plain stupidity. Filipinos are paying a whopping $175,000 in daily interest for the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, for which contractor Westinghouse Corp. reportedly paid Ferdinand Marcos a commission of over $80 million through his crony Herminio Disini. The BNPP loan, which will be settled in 2018, accounts for about five percent of the country's trillions in debt. By the time Westinghouse stopped construction of the BNPP, its cost had ballooned to $2.3 billion, and it never produced a single watt of electricity.

And yet no one was ever punished for that atrocity. Disini fled, and is said to be enjoying the fruits of his labors in a European castle. Marcos died in exile, but all his heirs are fully rehabilitated in the eyes of Philippine society. This failure to hold anyone accountable for saddling Filipinos with crippling debt has surely emboldened a newer generation of crooks, who are again padding the cost of foreign-funded projects to line their own pockets.

Several studies have shown that corruption has cost the country billions in economic losses in the past years. But despite numerous exposés, extensive news coverage, congressional investigations and actual prosecution, no big fish has ever really been punished for large-scale corruption. Until Filipinos start making crooks account for their crimes against a suffering nation, there will never be an end to thievery.



Website Director: Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS
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