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G20 summit and bribery: Is the anti-corruption effort for real?

A G20 summit of world leaders on Thursday will judge its year-long effort against corruption. With Greece as an example of what dishonesty can cause to the world economy, the G20 needs to set deadlines for action.

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Petty graft, such as tax evasion or demands for bribes, aren’t so petty when the cumulative effect can shake an entire country, a region, and the global economy.

The Arab Spring was driven by popular resentment over corruption of a ruling elite. In America, the 2008 financial crisis originated in widespread dishonesty about the real worth of home mortgages. In Europe, a debt crisis started with Greeks evading taxes and their government lying about the depth of the country’s red ink.

Last year, fortunately, a global fight against corruption picked up steam. Leaders of the world’s 20 top economies committed to improving each country’s level of official transparency, accountability, and integrity.

On Thursday, the G20 leaders meet in Cannes, France, for a summit that will include progress reports on each country’s anti-corruption efforts, such as protection of whistleblowers. On paper, many countries have passed laws or joined international pacts aimed at curbing dishonesty in both government and business. Russia and China, for example, recently toughened laws on bribery.

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