Do me a favour?

on 11:10 am

I am sure that anyone that follows the news here in Portugal knows that the country is rife with corruption scandals, involving all levels of the public and private sector.

Bribes, kickbacks, fraud and favours concerning politicians, public procurements, large corporations, and, well, almost everyone in a position of power, are coming to light. No wonder that Portuguese confidence in politicians is extremely low.

The Portuguese parliament recently approved anti-corruption measures (including harsh punishment of "illegal enrichment"). I hope that this is the start of a serious crackdown on corruption in this country, despite the many obstacles to change.

Of course, none of this addresses the issue of "minor" corruption that is highly prevalent in Portugal. When I say minor I mean the influence that friends and family members have on arranging cushy jobs for others. The examples are so numerous that I will not waste my time writing them down, but they are fairly easy to spot, you only have to look at the last names of the employees in many public offices, some even employ entire families...

It ends up being corruption all the same since it subverts legally established selection procedures, which exist in the case of vacancies for public offices (for example, positions in municipalities). On paper, candidates are valued based on objective methods, for example, a candidates résumé is evaluated and given a score out of 20, he is then subject to written exam, and afterwards an interview. Unfortunately, these methods end up being very subjective. The evaluation of a candidate’s résumé, the correction of exams, and the interview is not subject to any defined standard, and a potential candidate can be excluded or passed over by the whim of an assessor.

I can understand the basic motivation for this type of influence. Family members want the best for their sons/daughters/cousins/nephews,etc., friends want to help friends, and people want to concede favours that they can later reap. Regrettably, it ends up being prejudicial for the employer, clients and citizens, since the best people for the job are rarely chosen.

One even begins to wonder if anyone gets to where they are by their own merit, or if they are there thanks to a "friend of a friend". Maybe I am just a pessimist.

This type of corruption is so entrenched in Portuguese society that I doubt that legislative changes can affect it, especially since it is so hard to verify that anything illegal was done. I believe that the most important solution is tied with the creation and reinforcement of a true civil society, which in Portugal is still truly lacking...

On this subject I highly recommend the book "Corruption in Italy: a Structural Approach", by Paolo Ferrari, on the relationship between corruption and civil society.

On a more positive note, happy 101th birthday, Manoel de Oliveira! Here´s hoping for another 101!


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