I once said that there are several types and degrees of corruption in Egypt, some of which are protected by law and agreed upon. But the corrupt and the distorted are not similar. One of them is less harmful than the other, even if their descriptions share similarities.
Imagine if we were going to build a school, airport, or any public facility. We will face four potential types of corruption:
First: The airport would be built with high quality and at a reasonable price, but the corrupt will try to achieve personal gain through having brokerage or personal privileges without causing a direct damage to the facility provided to the country. This is the lowest degree of corruption.
Second: The airport would be built with high quality, but at an exaggerated price, which allows the corrupt to take the price difference for himself.
Third: The airport would be built with low quality or perhaps with some construction mistakes, and the corrupt would receive special privileges or brokerage and cause severe loss to the country.
Fourth: The airport would not be built at all, or the corrupt would establish a building that looks like an airport, while he obtains the allocated funds or brokerage and cause a severe loss to the country. This type seeks to achieve personal interests even at the expense of the country.
Of course, all previous types of corrupted people always justify their dirty business. Actually, they consider themselves as oppressed and their acts cannot be seen as corruption at all. They perhaps take advantage of loopholes in the law, and many may sympathise with them, because the corruption creates a culture which fuels and supports them.
The fight against the culture of corruption is as important as the fight against corruption itself. The corruption in democracies is the abuse of public office, even if there was not a clear violation of the law. You might not violate any law, but you can be prevented from exercising some of your authority as an employee or charged due to giving an impression to others that you abuse your office. I swear to God that officials of the United States can be held accountable, not because they abused their position, but because they have given the impression that they are corrupt. They want to avoid creating a culture that justifies the corruption of others.
Let’s have a look at presidential decree No. 11222 of 1965 signed by President Lyndon Johnson, which stipulates that “any public employee should avoid any action which might result in, or create the appearance of: (1) using public office for private gain; (2) giving preferential treatment to any organisation or person; (3) impeding government efficiency or the economy; (4) losing complete independence or impartiality of action; (5) making a government decision outside official channels; or (6) affecting adversely the confidence of the public in the integrity of the government.
Corruption is one of the most dangerous issues faced by the president, and he has to deal with it carefully, because corruption in Egypt is extended in the public space, and mostly in Egyptian culture. The experience of Eastern European countries in the fight against corruption through the establishment of special commissions for this purpose has been pretty successful. They manage not only to amend legislative loopholes that allow for corruption to take place, but also they created a cultured that opposes corruption. It is a difficult mission, but not impossible.
The most important lesson in the fight against corruption is to avoid fighting in an extended battle with corruption in all sectors. You should choose your battles and eliminate the biggest one, surprisingly. You should also reveal the roots of corruption to gain credibility, popularity, and legitimacy.
Corrupted people help each other, and they conspire against those fighting them to decrease their legitimacy and undermine their credibility. The fight against corruption needs wise planning, similar to major military battles.