Somalia has taken a federal system to devolve the political and administrative authorities from the centre to states and local governments.
Sates are established to improve the lives of the people as the 1997 World Development Report by the World Bank asserted that an effective state is vital for the provision of public goods and services and the rules and institutions enable societies live in healthier and happier lives.
Hirshabelle, youngest of all the federal member states, has sufficient economic resources for recovery and development including agriculture, livestock, fishing, minerals and oil reserves. However, the state faces an existential threat that impedes any progress towards peace, security and recovery.
Currently the state government is weak and dysfunctional due to bad leadership and grand corruption and this derails the prospects for reconstruction and development. This piece discusses the type and the scale of corruption in the state and examines the political, economic and social costs of grand corruption on peace and state building efforts in Hirshabelle.
Generally corruption is defined as the misuse of public power for private gain but experts in international law and development policy often distinguish between grand and petty corruption where the former occurs at the highest level of the government and it is involved by political and economic elites who directly steal government resources and misuse public office for private benefit while the other occurs at the administrative level and it is committed by public officials.
Although there is a widespread petty corruption in the state, it becomes small in comparison to the one committed by the political leaders. Top political leaders are reluctant to enforce public financial management system and many believe that their intention is to continue misappropriating tax revenue, grants from the federal government and money from humanitarian and development aid.
Those leaders and other vested interest groups enrich themselves and their relatives at the expense of the people in that state. Furthermore, the perpetrators of embezzlement can’t be prosecuted and punished since they have impunity and that have far-reaching impact on the state’s development.
Firstly, grand corruption has several political consequences including achieving relative political stability, raising the risk of conflict renewal, and undermining the legitimacy and the efforts of building public institutions.
Accepting corruption at the beginning of state formation was inevitable to achieve political settlement by incorporating various actors and militias from the two regions. The motivation of former militia leaders and special interest groups to participate in state formation process was to accumulate wealth by collecting taxes and seize money from foreign aid programs.
Moreover, the federal government’s intention was to win a political loyalty to achieve its main objective of reelection by manipulating 2016 parliamentary elections. Therefore, the state enjoys relative political stability comparing to others because senior politicians have secured a profitable deal in the form of grand corruption and have a good relationship with the federal government.
Even though grand corruption seems achieve political stability in the short run, it raises the risk of reversion to conflict and instability in the long run. The unequal distribution of corrupt money and the exclusion of some clans from getting such benefits increased grievances in the society which led to a civil unrest. For instance, clans that faced a political and economic exclusion resorted to cooperate with terrorist groups and this really eroded the gains and progress in peace and state building process in the state.
Another consequence of grand corruption is a decline of people’s trust in the government and they started to regard the government illegitimate which literally means widespread disrespect for the law and order. The political corruption also thwarted the efforts of building public institutions since the required funds are expropriated by the special interest groups and corrupt politicians.
Additionally, the political corruption promotes the petty corruption. Public officials begin to demand bribes and facilitating payments since the leaders that should lead by example are also stealing large sums of public resources.
The corruption also translates into a security problem since there is no budget for the security sector. For example, the road between Jowhar and Mogadishu was safe to travel before the election of Mohamed Abdi Waare as the president of the state but now senior politicians and officials use air travel route because many people were killed in the road including Member of Parliament, former state minister and regional officers.
Secondly, there are economic costs of grand corruption including but not limited to drastic decline in tax revenue and decrease in the quantity and the quality of foreign aid and the failure to manage natural disasters such as droughts and floods. Tax collectors take a high share of tax revenue before they submit it to the revenue collection authorities who transfer large portion of the money to greedy leaders.
On the other hand, a high percentage of tax revenue is lost due to tax evasion because people contend that no taxation without representation and see that their money ends up in the pockets of corrupt leaders and greedy officials rather than serving for the common good. Grand corruption also reduces the amount of foreign aid because international partners mostly allocate aid to countries considering their corruption level.
So for example, they give a large amount of foreign aid to countries and states that show commitments by adopting public financial management systems and enhancing government’s transparency and accountability. For instance, in 2019 the Federal Government and the World Bank have signed an infrastructure development project that costs $112 million and each federal member state received its share except Hirshabelle and Galmudug for not fulfilling the requirements of development aid.
Similarly, grand corruption lessens the quality of foreign aid since the money allocated for useful development projects are mismanaged or the entire fund is misused by businesses and companies owned by the politicians. In addition to that grand corruption represents a great barrier for creating jobs for the youth who would have worked at different government institutions if the state revenue has not been stolen by the politicians and special interest groups.
For instance, the World Bank is ready to pay the salaries of thousands of civil servants as it does to other federal member states as grants if the administration adopts public financial management system by harmonizing taxes, executes the budget in accordance with the PFM, and establishes an independent civil service commission and office of auditor general.
Finally, grand corruption also has social costs including lack of public education, poor health facilities and rise in the number of people living in extreme poverty. Despite the availability of several private schools in some parts of the state, the people of the region still suffer from high illiteracy rate. The children from poor families can’t afford private school fees and there are no public schools that would provide them free education.
Further, people in rural areas mostly have no access to any kind of educational facilities and few of them migrate to cities for education. On the other hand, the poor health facilities in the state reflects the scale of corruption where for instance there is only one referral hospital with limited medical equipments in Middle Shabelle region.
Moreover, the limited numbers of MCHs contribute to the increase in maternal mortality rate especially the women who live in remote villages and the death of many children of treatable diseases such as diarrhea and malaria. Lastly grand corruption creates a great inequality and exacerbates the poverty problem since leaders and officials thrive through the corruption while the people perish through it.
In conclusion, the corruption by the political and economic elites who have impunity in Hirshabelle impedes peace and state building process and deprives ordinary people through economic and social costs.
The federal government, international partners and societal actors should collaborate to fight the grand corruption and prosecute the perpetrators to build strong public institutions that can provide social services and also can promote the well-being of the people in Hirshabelle state of Somalia.