One of the greatest causes of economic stagnation and decline is corruption. An article published by Forbes magazine stated that, “Corruption delays, distorts and diverts economic growth…Corruption both causes and thrives upon weaknesses in key economic, political and social institutions.”[i] Corruption is like a virus that eats away at opportunities for change, growth, and prosperity.
I currently work as a research consultant for a firm that wants to invest in the economic development of Ukraine. The issue of corruption has come up in every single economic sector of Ukraine. It is a widespread epidemic that extends across all level of public administration. Ukraine not only fights a war in the east – it’s fighting a war against the exploitation of its economy and people each day.
An article in the Guardian gave this example: money is allocated to the medical system from tax dollars but the full amount does not end up in the hospital. This makes hospital administrators and doctors feel they have no choice but to ask for bribes from their patients, not just to compensate for their low salaries, but more so to be able to buy the medical supplies they need to treat patients.[ii] This is just one example of the cyclical and evil pattern of corruption.
According to Transparency International, Ukraine is not only the most corrupt country in Europe, but Ukraine also ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, sharing scores with Uganda and Comoros.[iii] Ukraine ranks 142 out of 175 countries on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) with a score of 26 out of 100.[iv]
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was given the chance to restructure its society away from the authoritarian rule of the past. However, hasty implementation of new policies opened ways for the rise of oligarchic power. Those high up in the ranks of power had direct access to state owned resources that were sold off during the period of “privatization.” Furthermore, the money given by international organizations, like the IMF, to save the economy ended up in the bank accounts of these oligarchs. So, although Ukraine is a resource rich country and although Ukraine has received more aid than any other former Soviet country – it still remains one of the poorest countries in Eastern Europe.
When I look at the situation in Ukraine my heart is burdened. I can see the potential Ukraine has to succeed in the world economy, but I am constantly reminded of the roadblocks corruption brings into the equation. I look at these statistics and stories and think, “who could solve it?” When facing something as monstrous as systemic corruption it is easy to become very cynical as the corruption cycle continues and deepens. I often tell my bosses, “it’s going to take at least two generations to weed this out – and that’s if they are serious about it.”
Corruption is much like our sin: pervasive, cyclical, evil and damaging. Sin hinders us from flourishing and prospering. We can see this in generational cycles of abuse, alcoholism, discrimination, etc.
So why do I continue to try and work on these tough problems posed by international development in a corruption filled country? I could just as easily throw up my hands, point to The Fall and say, “sin is everywhere, everything is broken, my work is no good and pointless, Jesus come sooner.” But that is bad theology. Yes sin is everywhere, everything is broken, and our hearts should earnestly await the return of Christ – but our work can be good and it should have a point to it. God did not render the Cultural Mandate insignificant and obsolete after The Fall. Yes, sin entered in and made it a lot more difficult to carry out this mandate, but we are still to work in this world as partners with God in creation. As I work each day to better understand the difficulties Ukraine faces, I hope to find ways to provide Ukrainians with access to paths not marked by corruption but with opportunity and value. To allow them to match their full potential. To cultivate Ukraine into something greater. To bring Gods Kingdom here on earth and see His people flourish.
Baylee Molloy works in international development and is a participant in the 2015-2016 Capital Fellows Program. She has a Master’s from the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia.
Images: FreeImages.com/Svilen Milev, Abdulhamid AlFadhly