Special to Times of Oman
Recent news of corruption in high places has rocked Oman and caused an upsurge in the number of concerned citizens calling for drastic action by authorities.
Incidents of arrests following identification of corruption are finding place in newspapers and media channels with increasing frequency. In most cases the indicted individuals have served in influential positions across a variety of sectors.
Looking at the bright side of these arrests and news reports, it can be said that the unprecedented action by the government of bringing these culprits to book has reassured Oman's citizens and residents.
However, given the enormity of the consequences, the authorities alone cannot be expected to address the malady. A nationwide awareness campaign needs to be rolled out on a priority basis.
I say this because the abuse of power, or corruption, is most often difficult to identify and eliminate. A common misconception about corruption is that it is exists primarily in government organisations.
In reality, corrupt practices occur in the private sector as well, in organisations of all sizes, and also among individuals.
Corruption has a strong economic fallout. Studies indicate correlations with interruption of investments, restriction of trade and a significant reduction in overall economic growth.
Increasing levels of poverty, depletion of national resources for personal gain, and a rise in disparity of incomes are just some direct results of power abuse.
Nations which suffer high levels of corruption are far more susceptible to economic crises than those that do not. Corruption also undermines the credibility of a country's authorities, its systems and practices, both internally and at an international level.
Transparency International estimates that investing in a 'relatively corrupt' country can cost a staggering 20 per cent more than investing in an 'incorrupt' country. A corrupt system gives rise to a damaged society, with soaring crime rates and diminishing morale.
Individuals who do not have power feel disadvantaged and are more likely to turn to dishonest practices and unjust means to meet personal and professional goals.
A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey likewise pointed out that corruption is prevalent in 35 per cent of all companies in the Middle East, considerably higher than the global average of 27 per cent.
This figure is worrying to say the least. The writing is on the wall. We must all do our part in spreading awareness and encouraging transparent, honest practices that work to benefit the society at large, as opposed to solely focusing on personal gain.
As responsible, forward-thinking citizens it is our duty to look out for one another. Any individual who is approached with a transaction or request that seems dubious, or identifies potential corrupt practice must investigate the matter and inform authorities as soon as possible.
By turning a blind eye or professing indifference we unwittingly support and propagate a culture of corruption.
As concerned and well-meaning citizens we must all play our parts in safeguarding the systems that our nation was built on. In order to continue writing the success story of Oman we must take collective responsibility for our own actions and for those of others.
Only through taking proactive steps to weed out corrupt behaviour and practices can we catalyse productivity and fuel economic growth, leading ourselves and posterity closer to achieving the happy picture of a resurgent Oman as envisioned by our esteemed leader.
The author is the Chairman of National Bank of Oman and an International Advisor to the Brookings Institution. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.