Surveys conducted in the past two decades suggested that most entrepreneurs complained about malpractice, harassment and red-tapism in any kind of service delivery in the country. Corruption, as it does, increases not just the cost of doing business, but also the pains of civic life that often misses the very public attention.
Some people often support or even advocate bribery dubbing it 'speed money' for what they justify as expediting the process of service delivery.
That was not the spirit in Bangladesh's traditional culture in which 'honesty is a great quality' (Shototai mohot goon) - a bit different from the English adage 'honesty is the best policy'. Had we believed in and practised honesty in social life, there would not have been so many misdeeds in society like possessing illegal wealth as reflected in massive scams and siphoning off money abroad.
Our social leaders had once aspired to put norms and principles above legal provisions for punishments of corrupt elements so that the people in general are motivated not to lead dishonest life. That might have proved to be too 'ideal' to follow.
The social reality is: corruption has to be fought by laws, rules, regulations, institutions, culture and constant resistance. Honesty is no more a hobby of the naïve folks!
In the 'National Integrity Strategy of Bangladesh', the Anti-Corruption Commission has been described as the most important institution to fight corruption and establish fair play in society.
Now, do all of us know that the country has such an integrity strategy, formulated in 2012 with the vision for a 'Bangladesh free from corruption'? Maybe, we have failed to understand its relevance or its framers no longer find it attractive to the current mood of the constituents.
Since integrity is not a matter of seasonal conduct, people in society's driving seats may rather love to see the commoners forget the promises that have been enshrined in the strategy, officially.
The integrity strategy states among other things, "it is necessary to closely monitor the wealth statement by the public servants in order to make the public administration more transparent, accountable and corruption-free." This challenge, highlighted in the strategy, has also underlined the importance of addressing major public interest issues such as corruption in land ownership and enforcement of laws and food adulteration.
A key goal of it is to make the state functionaries accountable to the people and parliament.
Dwelling on the judiciary, the strategy has identified a few challenges such as disposal of cases within a reasonable timeframe, improving public perception about the justice delivery system and making accountability of the judges more visible.
It has set the goal of 'keeping the Election Commission as a constitutional body effective in properly holding free, neutral and credible elections'. Complaints about the recent elections only contrast the performance of the commission.
On the non-state actors, the strategy has emphasised higher practice of democracy within the political parties, bringing transparency in their fund management and shunning politics of conflict. Also acknowledging that journalists often face intimidation while on duty, the integrity strategy has stressed establishment of the media free from business and party interests.
The challenges that affect the private sector include loan default culture, advanced level of corporatisation, lack of consumer rights protection, and unfair business syndication.
National integrity should have been by this time a social movement for building a prosperous country with guarantee of fairness, justice and equal dignity of men and women. We haven't heard of any great noise of the issues of integrity, be it personal or social, in recent times.
Fellow feeling is believed to be the abode of human values, and the integrity strategy has stressed the need for promoting role models in society. Alas! The quarrelsome posts on the social media indicate how far we respect each other. Instead, the divisive views demonstrate the kind of world we are living in.