Bribery and Corruption

We waited for three hours at the border, and it felt like we were constantly at the back of the queue. It would have been all too easy to approach one of the guys nearby clutching a handful of passports and for a small fee to avoid the queue. It was definitely a tempting prospect as the heat of the day began to rise.

And maybe that’s the problem. It is an easy way out. No-one seemed to have thought that perhaps having more than one person stamping passports at the border would have been a good idea, or maybe because it was a holiday weekend, they were hugely understaffed. Chatting with others in the queue we reflected on how easy it would be to hand over a few dollars for the privilege of leaving the queue early. A group of expats who had done exactly that passed us on the way out and told us to stop wasting our time queuing.

But we waited. Time passed. We were still at the back of the queue. As ridiculous as it seemed to stand up for such principles when everyone else seemed to be flouting the rules, we stood our ground. The queue diminished and we were nearly at the front when the lady from the coach company took all our passports and marched to the front desk, (this time with no payment) and handed them in to be stamped.

As we wandered back to the coach, I felt slightly defeated, although relieved to be out of the queue at last. I wondered if things would ever change, if bribery could be avoided, if the systems would ever improve and change. Or is it just seen as normal and part of life? Challenging corruption is not just about implementing better systems; it requires a change of attitude. Maybe it is a refusal to pay a fee for a passport stamp, a willingness to queue that little bit longer, not just to go for the easy option.

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