“Corruption is the mother of all vices”. I constantly hear that if governments in emerging countries would solely focus on eliminating corruption without doing anything else, these countries would be much better off.
Personally, I believe that corruption is what transforms a leader into a common thug. In my country, Mexico, we have a large quantity of corrupt individuals operating as politicians. Transparency International has said that corruption is on the rise in Mexico and last year ranked it 102 out of 175 countries in its perception of corruption index, and it ranked last among the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Elsewhere, a New York Times article from 2012 claims that said Mexico lost $872 billion between 1970 and 2010 to crime, corruption and tax evasion, with an acceleration of losses since the North American Free Trade Agreement began in 1994 and ushered in a wave of foreign investment.
Quite apart from the data quantifying the effect of corruption on the economy, it is much harder to gauge the effect that this has on people's perspective of these countries (and how this effects foreign direct investment, tourism, and other economic aspects). Corrupt politicians in Mexico are effectively dragging down the country. It is widely agreed that the only reason we are not at the same level of G10 countries, is because of this small group of mafiosos who are only concerned with furthering personal interests.
On the local level, things are also sketchy. Our city governments also demonstrate time and time again that the most important agenda items involve helping their compadres. Even seemingly distinguished candidates that gain a seat in office have to scratch the backs of those that put them in office - the parties that widely rely on union support for votes. A clear and recent example of this is the trouble that Uber has faced in cities throughout Mexico, including Tijuana, Mexico City and Guadalajara.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, starting at the local level. We should introduce a start-up mentality into policy making, come up with solutions quickly and validate them efficiently and scale them once they gain traction.
Here is my 10 step guide to what needs to be done:
1. Gather a few free-thinking politicians or change-makers to try to solve one or two issues regarding a specific topic;
2. Structure a business model, without the solution;
3. Crowdsource the issue within the community;
4. Share it via social media to get citizens to participate in the solution process;
5. Create a pilot with a small budget in a lean, fast and effective way;
6. Document the impact and failures created after the pilot;
7. Raise public money to create a more aggressive roll-out strategy;
8. Implement the project or policy in the rest of the city or state;
9. Create awareness of the issue being solved with total transparency;
It is easier said then done, I know, as old habits are hard to break. But by implementing a different paradigm in policy making, corruption may be reduced. I believe that politics is much more complex than any industry, because reason doesn't always play as big a role as it should, and as it does in other industries.
By having a start-up mentality towards policy making our political leaders can give average citizens the power to propose policies and become involved in the implementation process, something I believe will bring more transparency, efficiency, and accountability to the political process.