Currency versus Corruption

Demanding bribes is a common form of corruption around the world. It can greatly impede economic transactions when there is an extra “cost of doing business.” Organizations like Transparency International collect data on corruption on a global scale – in which nations is the problem most serious?

Corruption is a major economic concern, particularly in nations where the practice of demanding bribes is widespread. One major challenge to addressing the problem is that the problem is culturally systemic. Once paying bribes is common practice, it can be very difficult to change the culture to one where bribes are not paid. Government or business officials who regularly collect bribes have little incentive to stop (and give up the additional income), and even the individuals who are extorted have little patience for fighting back and creating a scene when slipping the official a bribe will make like easier.

In India, paying or accepting a bribe is illegal. However, there is little active resistance against the practice, and often bribes are demanded for services as essential as access to electricity. How can this problem be tackled? An organization called 5th Pillar has come up with an innovative approach: a note worth zero rupees. A zero rupee note? Indeed. The note is not legal currency, and obviously, cannot be used to make a purchase. Yet, the note provides individuals a way to protest a demand for a bribe. By substituting actual currency with the zero rupee note, the demander receives a clear message: “I refuse to participate in this system of corruption.” In a simple and silent way, the individual can make a powerful statement which works to counteract the culture of corruption. And as The Economist describes, the notes have achieved some positive results.

It may have the same value as Monopoly money, but the zero rupee note is making a difference in putting an end to corruption in India.


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