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Letter From Christchurch

On Tuesday, a 6.3-magnitude quake hit Christchurch, New Zealand. Ninety-eight people are confirmed dead and another 200 are still missing. A day after the quake, 80 percent of the city was still without water and about 40 percent had no power. Emergency teams from around the world are working in Christchurch to find people buried beneath the rubble.

It was bad but could have been a lot worse. We’ve talked before about earthquakes and corruption.

On that subject, a reader sent this comment yesterday:

Dear FCPA Blog,

The last days while viewing the Christchurch, New Zealand quake and the way buildings shattered and collapsed, reminds me of earlier earthquake devastation I have visited.

In 1985 and the killer Mexico City quake, buildings vaporized. Corrupt building code inspectors looked the other way as contractors with lucrative winning bids purposely left steel out of vital building supports to save money for their own pockets. Virtually all “government” bid projects were damaged, and in one of the largest cities in the world, only one hospital remained standing; 160 beds for 25 million people, thousands injured or killed.

This is the worst kind of corruption and brings new meaning to the words, “public trust.” I wholeheartedly agree with Professors Ambraseys and Bilham’s assessment of corrupt countries and high earthquake-related deaths. Had New Zealand fallen victim to the same corrupt practices, no telling what the death toll would be.

Bobby Vassallo
[email protected]

New Zealand, by the way, ranks first (best) on the Corruption Perception Index, tied with Denmark and Singapore.

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