Huge economic costs of corruption: Majyd Aziz

Majyd Aziz, President of Global Compact Network Pakistan (GCNP), has said that corruption in business is a universal problem and that the worldwide economic costs of corruption are more than $2 trillion. Corruption and bad practices in Pakistan are now institutionalised, hampering economic progress. The widespread corruption results in an inefficient economy. Moreover, the moral cost of corruption is also endemic, and those with discretionary or decision-making powers are either forced to commit corrupt practices or are deeply involved in taking advantage of their positions.

Majyd Aziz was chairing the Roundtable Meeting on Identification of Good Practices, Malpractices and Corrupt Practices and their Solutions in the Maritime Industry of Pakistan, hosted by GCNP in association with the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) based in Denmark. He addressed users and stakeholders of the Maritime industry from eleven Chambers and Associations.

He advised all should agree on introducing transparency, having zero tolerance for corruption, and working as a united force. Influence peddling or giving expensive presents or payments to receive undue advantage are normal. Corruption is also when businesses make political donations to influence political decisions, change policies or amend laws. Favouritism, nepotism, cronyism, etc., are forms of corruption because these lead to unfair preferential treatment at the expense of others. He wondered why stakeholders do not focus on one office or department at a time and sincerely pledge not to offer bribes or gifts. This can only happen if collective action is taken and agreed by all stakeholders.

Mathias Bak of MACN Denmark participated virtually and advised that stakeholders must sit and develop standard operating procedures and have a strong platform to become a powerful deterrent against bad practices. He added that full compliance with the SOPs would enable stakeholders to change the system by optimising their resources. He said that curbing corruption is essential for economic growth and reducing costs. Developing consensus on efficiencies, transparency, and efforts, would ensure integrity, and free them from challenges of undue pressures.

During an informative, lively, and focused discussion among the stakeholders, several suggestions and proposals were made, especially about detention charges and avoidable demurrages. There was a consensus to establish a Ship Agents Advisory Board as the focal point for all disputes and Port activities. Fixation of the Import Trade Price formula would end arbitrary price fixation and corruption in Customs. There was a need to form a Monitoring Body to keep a check on shipping companies.

The participants also complained that the Customs and Port authorities unilaterally changed rules and regulations, resulting in corruption and bad practices. Issues were also highlighted on cross stuffing, and if cross stuffing were allowed for transit trade, why should not it be done for general cargo? A defined explanation of examination by Customs was enforced, and transparent policies by the government were needed to end corruption in the Customs.

The participants made numerous complaints against the mushrooming of labour unions, use of by-road workers, entry of unauthorised persons in the Ports, mandatory employment workers of Karachi Dock Labor Board whose daily wages are very high, and the strong-arm attitude of officials of the Department of Plant Protection. These and many more charges increase the cost of cargo clearance and are ultimately paid by the general consumer.

Tanvir Ahmad, Advisor on MACN for GCNP, informed that GCNP had a meeting with FIA and a detailed letter was handed over to the concerned Director. GCNP proposed that the old SOPs have become outdated and irrelevant today. FIA should study the ILO Maritime Convention and amend the SOPs accordingly. Muhammad Akram, Project Manager on MACN, moderated the meeting and informed that GCNP and MACN held regular seminars and individual consultative meetings and successfully found beneficial solutions. The National Conference will be held on 22 September, where Mr. Bak of MACN Denmark will present the latest positive initiatives and actions taken in other countries.

Representatives and office bearers from PIFFA, QICT, Custom Agents, Shipping Lines, Stevedores, Cargo Handling, PRGMEA, PHMA, QFS Terminal, KCCI, ICCI, and Paper Merchants attended the meeting. They unanimously expressed willingness to join the fight against corruption and bad practices and offered full support and cooperation to GCNP and MACN.

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