“ In Tunisia, only the poor are not corrupt”

Kevin Beasley Untitled (Sea)

If you have not did it already, please this read this insightful interview with the Senior Analyst of International Crisis Group, co-author of the report on Corruption and Regionalism that I discussed briefly few months ago.

I am highlighting below some of the most striking extracts. It is not really optimistic, I am afraid.

The fight between established and emerging elites is complex and not region-based

The real distinction is between those who have access to the formal economy and those who prevent others from entering it. Classes are not static; they’re formed by people who are enmeshed in the same struggle. It’s like in physics when you do the experiments with magnets and negatives and positives. When you drop the magnet in, they all scatter to opposite ends. It’s a dynamic notion — this is very important to understand.

50% of the economy is illegal so most Tunisians are doing something illegal

The problem is that 50% of the economy is illegal. Sometimes the bosses themselves participate in the informal sector because it’s such a large part of the economy. And when such a large part of the economy operates in the informal sector, you have to change the laws. You can’t just jail everyone.

Only the poor are not corrupt and not because they want to

Corruption is not merely the use of a public function for private interest. There are people who say that every politician is corrupt. For people of the emerging class, every member of the established elite is corrupt. For them, they’re all former members of the mafia from the ’70s and ’80s. And for the established elites, the smugglers and the people originally from the south have absolutely no value and are against the law. Meanwhile, everyone in Tunisia who has been involved in business has involved themselves in something illegal. Only the poor are not corrupt. And even they wish they had those connection

Money is paramount

Individualism and consumerism have created a newfound focus on money which can break familial relationships and friendships. There’s jealousy between brothers over who has more money. And if one brother has more, the other one views him as corrupt. So people suffer and are poor and they can no longer rely on the traditional solidarity to find help. At the same time, the state and the economy is not wealthy enough to offset these hardships through the redistribution of wealth or handouts. Institutions are also penetrated by the corruption that money spawns. Money is paramount; you buy your way out of jail and you buy the means to have privileges, because the laws grant privileges to people with money. The assessment of these conditions and the diversity of opinions relating to them will create the foundation for new laws and reforms.
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