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Dec 8, 2006

Malaysian leader calls for strong anti-corruption legislation

Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy prime minister and finance minister of Malaysia, called for strong legislation and enforcement to fight corruption, but he warned that such measures should be apolitical. 

Speaking at the IDB Forum of the Americas at the Bank’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., Ibrahim delivered on December 7 an address on "The Central Role of Governance and Accountability in Achieving Development Goals in the 21st Century".

Examining anti-corruption efforts around the world, Ibrahim  praised the Hong Kong approach,  which consists of an apolitical anti-corruption commission with a budget less than $1 million but with sufficient staff and volunteers capable of detecting and punishing corruption.

Noting that fighting corruption has become “the new mantra” of policy-makers, he cautioned that   nations must achieve freedom before they could attain political competition, security, democracy, transparency and accountability that make efforts to fight corruption more effective. He  emphasized  that the “separation of powers guarantee that the system is sustainable in the long term. The issue of freedom and development must come together.”

To achieve development goals, he noted, governments and other agencies must use resources wisely and attack poverty directly.  In addition, he called for multilateral support to make transparency the central component of the development agenda. While calling for vigorous legislation and law enforcement to fight corruption, he also warned that the methods must be apolitical.

He also noted that there are some forms of corruption that must be dealt with that are legal, such as programs benefiting a certain privileged groups through policy. 

Ibrahim is a recognized worldwide leader in the fight against corruption. Although considered a leader of integrity around the world, he served a six-year prison term on corruption charges to which he pleaded innocent. Ibrahim was a protégé of the former prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir bin Mohamad, but subsequently he became the most prominent critic of Mahathir's administration. During his time in office Ibrahim called for reform and anti-corruption measures.

Since his release from prison in 2004, Ibrahim has held teaching positions at St. Anthony's College at Oxford in the United Kingdom and  at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. He is currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and was appointed  honorary president of the London-based organization AccountAbility in March of 2006.

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