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Many Pay Bribes for Basic Services in Middle East, Africa


An activist shows fake banknotes during a demonstration outside the European Commission (EC) headquarters ahead of statements by the EC on the effectiveness of existing measures against tax evasion and money-laundering in light of the recent Panama Paper revelations, in Brussels, Belgium, April 12, 2016. (REUTERS/Yves Herman)

An activist shows fake banknotes during a demonstration outside the European Commission (EC) headquarters ahead of statements by the EC on the effectiveness of existing measures against tax evasion and money-laundering in light of the recent Panama Paper revelations, in Brussels, Belgium, April 12, 2016. (REUTERS/Yves Herman)

In the Middle East and Africa, about 50 million people paid bribes last year to get basic services like water and electricity.

Transparency International surveyed almost 11,000 adults in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen over the 12 months beginning in September 2014.

It found that about 30 percent said they paid a bribe during the year.

The survey is called “People and Corruption: Middle East and North Africa.”

The bribes were not to get special treatment. They paid for basic services like health care, education and access to water.

The report also says 61 percent of people say they believe government corruption has worsened in the past year.

Kinda Hattar is the regional coordinator for the organization in Jordan. She says that little has changed since the Arab Spring uprising of five years ago.

Hattar says women paid bribes to doctors and healthcare workers to deliver babies. If they did not pay the bribes, they would have to deliver the baby at the door of the hospital.

“People do have to pay a bribe in order to get their basic health services,” she says.

The next problem, Hattar says, is that some governments do not take corruption seriously. People asking for bribes are not prosecuted effectively. One reason people do not report corruption is they are afraid of retaliation.

The report says money is not the only trade of corruption. Sometimes those in power will withhold services, like trash collection, until the other party supports them.

Letting trash pile up on streets is smelly and unhealthy. It causes public outcry, and that pressures opposing politicians.

The report says that is what happened in Beirut, Lebanon in 2015.

Hattar says an important step to fight bribes, also called graft or baksheesh, is to protect people who report corruption. These people are called whistleblowers.

Tunisia has enforced some anti-graft laws. But people there, Jordan and Palestine are also worried about being punished for reporting corruption.

Few people report corruption, the report says. People in Yemen, Lebanon and Sudan report that corruption and bribes are common. They say they do not think anything can be done about it.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English based on reporting by Victor Beattie of VOANews.com. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

Do people take bribes where you live? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

outcry – n. an expression of strong anger or disapproval by many people : a reaction showing that people are angry or unhappy about something

retaliate – n. to do something bad to someone who has hurt you or treated you badly : to get revenge against someone

prosecute – v. to hold a trial against a person who is accused of a crime to see if that person is guilty

uprising – n. a usually violent effort by many people to change the government or leader of a country

bribe – n. something valuable (such as money) that is given in order to get someone to do something

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