Corruption in Asia, a hassle or a favor

Corruption, a public secret

It’s well known that there is a lot of corruption going on in Asia. A famous word for it is baksheesh. In most countries it’s well known, but stays a kind of public secret. Without naming specific countries and institutions we will try to give some examples here about corruption. Some of the corruption methods are a fine line between what’s correct and what’s corruption. Often officials balance on this line. You have to be careful with what you call corruption, as in other cultures there are sometimes different values and definitions of words.

It’s too easy to judge when you don’t know full backgrounds. And what would you do when your salary is hardly enough to feed your family and you have the opportunity to make a bit more. Beside that, according to western standards there might be a lot of corruption. But what do we know for example about corruption in an organization like the UN? Or how about the banking sector in the west?



Overall, corruption is all about doing and getting favors. In all kinds of directions. When you want to do business in certain countries, you can count on payments here and there in order to get things done, or at least done faster. You can’t really fight it on your own. Where are you going to start with an official complaint? At a higher, also corrupt desk? When the favors are small, it might be worth not to have the hassle or waiting time.

There are many stories about how Asian countries deal with drugs dealers, but did you also know that in some countries and places, the dealers pay a bit of their profit to the police in order to keep doing their business? Just a favor of course. Or that you see police on a scooter bringing envelops to bars and returns 10 minutes later to get the envelope back with money inside for the favor to be able to stay open longer? It’s seems to be an accepted daily ritual.


In one country there is an immigration rule about visa for marriage that states that you can either get a 1 year visa, that you can extend each year, or they are allowed to give you just a three months visa, which you need to extend every three months. This is all within the rules and regulations, but the trick is that they know that people don’t like to go through the hassle every three months and prefer the one year visa. They will charge you an amount (once) in order to get the one year visa. Which of course you don’t have to pay, that’s totally up to you. When you feel that you don’t want to support corruption, don’t pay, but in return you will have to get yourself to the immigration office every three months instead of just after one year.

A few dollar extra

At a certain border point between two countries there is a board with the prices for tourist visa mentioned. Ordenary visa for $30 and tourist visa for $35. There are people who get charged $32. This mean $2 extra on the $30 visa, for the lunch of the officer you can call it. Another border point charges $5 extra from the original price. Here too counts that you don’t have to pay it, but the tactics are that they just let you wait for hours as if they are busy, as a punishment for not paying them. Is a few hours at a border point worth your few dollars?


When you need to get a report written on a police station for example for a burglary or a traffic accident, the officer, often still using old fashion type writers, will ask friendly for a relatively small amount. As if it’s not just his job and duty to type reports. When you are at government city offices for registrations the same thing will happen. Often a small room with 3 desks, where four or five officers ‘work’ on. One talks, another one puts a stamp, a third one write something in a book and the fourth one signs. This work can be done by one employee, max two. An overload of govt employees keeps countries poor too.

Just to pay for example your road tax, in countries where computers are still not on desks and where payments still need to be done at counters and in offices. Small favors like writing reports is about small money, but surely that there are cases of big money for big investments and big cases. A traffic fine? Put a bank note in the police officers hand and suddenly you can go.

Hear no evil

When you really are against any form of corruption, or ‘donations’, then I suggest that you don’t get yourself involved with govt institutions like police stations, immigration, registration offices, and so on. You can shout about the unfairness of it all, but you are in a foreign country and you cannot change their culture or habits. It’s a balance between what you can accept, what’s somehow reasonable and what not. Usually it stays a public secret and as foreigner you have to deal only limited with the issue of corruption. Locals however have to deal with it in their daily lives. But they complain far less about it than the foreigners.




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