Rethinking anti-corruption efforts in international development

Published date11 October 2021
Date11 October 2021
Subject MatterAccounting & finance,Financial risk/company failure,Financial crime
AuthorStijn Kuipers
Rethinking anti-corruption eorts
in international development
Stijn Kuipers
Centre for Development Studies, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
Purpose Corruption is commonly seen as a primary impediment to economic development, and its
eradication has thereforefeatured high on development agendas. Most anti-corruptionefforts in international
development howeverfail. This paper aims to review recent attempts to unpackthe black boxof corruption
to better understandits functioning in developing countries and nd ways to combat corruption effectively.
Design/methodology/approach The study hasbeen undertaken through a comparative literatureand
case analysis of some of the primary ndingswithin the eld of anti-corruption in international development
of the past decade.
Findings The researchnds that the black-and-white conceptualisationof corruption as an impediment to
economic development, whichis dominant in development circles, commonly fails to understand corruption
as an alternative form of problem-solving in specic institutional settings. This has both hindered anti-
corruption effortsand given unwarranted primacy to anti-corruption effortsin international development, to
the loss of otherpriorities.
Practical implications Policy-makers need to accept that there are no magic bulletsagainst
corruptionand work in a much more contextual manner, while accepting the fact that corruptionmight not be
the primaryimpediment to economic growth in their country.
Originality/value The paper strengthens recent calls for a more contextualized approach to combat
corruption, which have been given insufcient attention in policy design and most of the literature on corruption,
providing a novel starting point for functional, politically-aware anti-corruption and development efforts.
Keywords Good governance, Principal-agent, Anti-corruption, International development,
Collective-action, Thinking politically, Principal-agent problem, Collective-action problem,
Paper type Research paper
1. Corruption, the scourge of the developing world?
Over the past 25 years, corruptionhas come to be viewed as one of the primary impediments
to economic development (Kurtz and Schrank, 2007a;Fisman and Miguel, 2008;Sharman,
2017). It has been called a cancer(Wolfensohn,1996,p.10),adisease(Mackeyet al.,2016)
and an insidious plague(UNCAC, 2004, p. 3),as it is taken to impose costs on companies,
discourage investment and foster social and political instability. This depiction of
corruption holds the attractive promisethat economic growth will follow once we eradicate
corruption, and as a result, anti-corruption initiatives have abounded and are nowadays a
standard element of development programmes. However, it has proven very challenging to
eradicate corruption,as most anti-corruption efforts fail (Heeks, 2011;Marquetteand Peiffer,
2015a). At the same time, we still know relatively little about the factors underlying
intervention failure or success (Heeks, 2011;Marquette and Peiffer, 2015a;Kerusauskaite,
2018, pp. 45). This begs the question how developing countriescan control corruption, and
where are our understandingof (anti-)corruption is lacking.
This paper argues that the rather black-and-white thinking on corruption as a problem
impedes such a more accurate understanding, following the i nnovative work by Khan (2005,2006)
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.29 No. 4, 2022
pp. 1370-1381
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JFC-08-2021-0176
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT