A recent article by the New York Times discussed in depth the rise of government corruption in terms of private wealth and side-operations of officials. With the massive leaking of the Panama Papers, it mentioned a mixture of top European, Asian, and other top government officials involved in these potential investigations and scandals. Among those under fire was interestingly enough, Iceland’s own Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, who stepped down this week after connections to an “off-shore tax shelter” caused outrage in the country.
Similar outcry has been seen with the UK’s own David Cameron and Brazil’s President Dilma, but given Iceland’s usual reputation of transparency and progressivism, it was admittedly surprising to see them wrapped up in a headline like this. Typically recognized for their openness toward refugees with the Syrian Refugee Crisis or active advocacy for environmental protection, news involving them is not usually negative, except for their economic crash from 2008 linked to the American market crash.
With figures like “the Chilean head of Transparency International, a prominent anticorruption advocacy group”, who “was forced to step down after his name appeared in the leaked papers as an agent for offshore companies in the Bahamas” even becoming entangled in corruption cases, it raises the question: who has the real voice or power to address these issues and change the acceptability of such activities? In the case of Iceland it seems that public pressure played a large role in inciting change- does some of that public power translate to American culture and government? Should laws be passed to close some of these legal loopholes to encourage more transparent leadership?
For more perspective on this issue see the post Corruption Causes Economic Crashes or read http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/05/world/panama-papers-explainer.html.