I read a paper on ‘Why for a class of bribers, the act of giving a bribe should be treated as legal’. This paper was written by Kaushik Basu, Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, Government of India. This paper is available in this link.

The author is focusing on a particular class of bribe which he calls as ‘harassment bribes’, ie. those kinds of bribes that people have to give in order to get what they are already entitled to (eg. Having to pay extra money to get your pension amount released by the Pension office).

At present, in India, both the person giving the bribe and the person receiving the bribe are considered as offenders and there is a punishment for both of them for the act. The recommendation by the author in this paper is that the person giving the bribe should not be punished, while the punishment for the person receiving the bribe should be doubled. The idea here is that in harassment bribe situations, the person giving the bribe can give it, and then after the work is done, will be encouraged to report the receiver of the bribe, so that both the job is done as well as the person receiving the bribe is forced not to do the same thing again in the future.

This is a good idea and it really brings up a creative solution to reducing the level of bribery prevailing in these scenarios in India. This will result in a direct action in the future where the bribe receivers will stop asking for bribe directly and might think of other ways of receiving it. In any case, the end goal recommended in this approach ie. reducing bribe levels, will surely be achieved.

There is also a word of caution about this model, which the author also points out while defining the scope of this model. This recommendation does not take into consideration many variations such as ‘recurring bribes’ (where a person has to give bribe every month to get something done from the same person), ‘bribe hierarchy’ (the benefit of the bribe goes not just to the person receiving it, but also to many levels of superiors above this person and ‘recursive bribe loop’ (where once a bribe is reported, the person who is supposed to investigate gets bribed). Those kinds of bribes and many other variations have to be fought against in a different battle, while this one still aims to fulfill its job right.

Overall, I liked this approach and hence decided to share it here.