The plan for the first day was:
- Part I- course introduction (keep it simple and brief, as always), corruption in Panama, the Global Corruption Perception Index, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
- Part II- the Black Money video from "Frontline"
- Part III- the U.N. Global Compact and one of my special "Pregunta del Días"
Part I "Is Panama a corrupt country?" The students generally said "yes". Unfortunately I didn't get a lot of specifics, other than the usual (for me) like you always pay a police officer a little something ($10 is common) during a traffic stop. Also government permits and licenses typically cost a little something extra for the bureaucrat in charge. But there were no particularly surprising stories. There was some ambivalence toward President Martinelli and his true motives to reduce corruption in Panama. In all it seems like the rich and powerful will do what they can to stay rich and powerful. I did get a sense from the that the poor are really disenfranchised.
I also shared the Global Corruption Perception Index with them. It's not a magic list or set of numbers; just a broad indication of perceived corruption. They seemed interested and not particularly surprised by Panama's place. I also pointed out the United States' position is not particularly envious; tied for 24th and behind Chile and Qatar. My speculation is this as little to do with bribes per se than it is the corrupting role money plays in our election process and the lobbying access it affords.
Part II I planned on showing the video "Black Money" video which appeared on Frontline in 2009. I introduce the video with a brief explanation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; what it prohibits (bribery by U.S persons of foreign government officials), what it requires (good accounting controls and disclosures), what is allows ("facilitating payments") and what it includes (U.S. subsidiaries of foreign businesses). Black Money is especially interesting on this last point because it focuses on how BAE Systems (British Company) gets in trouble with the U.S. government.
Well the internet didn't do us any favors and after about six or seven minutes it would stall. So I asked the students to watch the video on their own time.
Part III Was mostly about the U.N. Global Compact. I went online and showed them that several Panamanian businesses are Global Compact signors. We then reviewed a powerpoint I have, "reasons for" and "reasons against" joining the Global Compact.
Finally, the Pregunta del Día: You dispatch cranes and similar equipment for a medium-sized, local company. Due to a recent powerful storm there is a strong demand for cranes to remove debris (e.g. fallen trees). Your company is currently telling clients there is a four to five day wait for a crane.A representative from a tree removal company tells you he needs a crane within twenty-four hours to help a very rich client He visits you personally to make an appeal and hands you an envelope with $400 cash.
Will you take the cash? (NOTE: a few clients will wait an extra day as a result of this wealthy person moving to the front of the line).