A friend of mine, who died a couple of year ago, used to go to Bangladesh quite often in his role as a representative of the World Bank. When the World Bank would make agricultural development loans to businesses in Bangladesh, my friend would go along with the money to make sure it wasn’t pocketed by crooks and that it was used for what it was intended.
He would not have been a bit surprised over the collapse of the factory building in the city of Savar, Bangladesh, in which 377 people were killed.
It turns out the permits granted for the structure were for five stories. The owner instead built eight stories.
How was he able to do that? My friend would have answered the question with one word: Bribery. When he was in Bangladesh, he found almost nothing happened without bribes being paid. He said the word for such bribery was “baksheesh,” and that it was a budget item in Bangladesh and most other countries of Asia.
Baksheesh would have been paid to the building inspectors (if there were any), and they would have spent their time drinking coffee or tea in a shop down the street from the construction site instead of looking closely at how the building was coming along and whether it matched the plans that had been improved.
Baksheesh would have made sure that the use of bad materials in the construction of the building was overlooked, too, so while the owner was cheating the city by stretching the number of floors, the contractor likely was cheating the owner by using substandard materials.
The owner of the building, who has been arrested, likely will be charged with negligence at first, and probably will face worse charges in the future.
But maybe he can get out of all that trouble, just by paying a little more baksheesh.