• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Re-Introducing Executive Bookshelf

Network of Book Clubs reviews 2021 reading promotion activities

I am excited to bring back to these pages the Executive Bookshelf section.

The Executive Bookshelf, a rendezvous for all book stakeholders, from avid bibliophiles to industry professionals like authors, writers, editors, librarians, and booksellers, is returning to these pages.

It’s not just about us. The Executive Bookshelf will feature reviews, interviews, and listings, but we also want to hear from you, our readers, and the book trade. Let’s discuss the business side of the book, including rankings, sales records, and more.

We will look at the profound and surface conversations around the book. We will also examine lists of books introduced monthly and some ranked by sales.

During its previous incarnation, Executive Bookshelf spoke to readers about the books they love and have loved and what they are reading. We will talk to writers about the process.

Regular book reviews and conversations around the book ecosystem will include prizes. Nigeria LNG made Nigeria the apex of book prizes in Africa with the $100000 Nigeria Prize for Literature. There are others, and we will highlight them.

Join the conversation. Send in your books and information on books. Read an interesting book and have thoughts on it? Please send it in.
Share via 08037231111 or email [email protected] or [email protected].

BOOK NEWS

Awaiting the Nigeria Prize Longlist

The literary community awaits the long list for the 2024 Nigeria Prize for Literature following the close of entries on 2 April 2024. The Nigeria Prize attracts $100000, the highest award in Africa and one of the highest globally.

This year, the award focuses on Children’s Literature. The Nigerian Prize is open to Nigerian writers wherever they reside.

This prestigious annual prize recognises outstanding published literary works by Nigerian authors.

Omojarabi is the sole Nigerian on the 2024 Commonwealth Short Story Shortlist.

Olajide Omojarabi, with the entry “House No 49”, is on the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2024 shortlist. The regional prize winner will be announced on 29 May.

Omojarabi is one of 23 writers shortlisted from 7,359 entries. He is also one of five African writers on the shortlist.

Omojarabi is an Assistant Lecturer at Thomas Adewunmi University, Oko, Kwara State.

Olajide is an MFA candidate in creative writing at the University of South Florida. He was recently the fiction editor at Saw Palm and has published work in Guernica, Off Assignment, Barren magazine, and elsewhere. He is currently working on his debut novel.

Unigwe chairs panel for 2024 Caine Prize for African Writing

Award-winning Nigerian novelist Chika Unigwe is chair of a five-person panel of judges for the 2024 Caine Prize for African Writing.

Other panellists are Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu, an award-winning writer, scholar and filmmaker; Julianknxx, a Sierra Leonean poet, artist and filmmaker; Tumi Molekane, aka Stogie T, a South African Hip-Hop artist; and Ayesha Harruna-Attah, a Ghanaian novelist.
The Caine Prize will announce five shortlisted stories in July, and the winner will emerge in September 2024.

Audiobook sales are growing in the UK.

UK readers increased their appetite for audiobooks in the last year. The Guardian (UK) reports, “New data released by the Publishers Association showed that the number of audiobook downloads in the UK increased by 17% between 2022 and 2023 and that over the years, audiobook revenue had more than doubled. Overall, the figures showed the number of physical book sales was slightly down”.
Why the growth of audiobooks? Fiona Sturges, the Guardian’s audiobook reviewer, identifies the reasons. Technological advances mean the audio quality is now so “pin-sharp”—Sturges cites Audible’s multicast, sound effects-filled productions of Dickens classics David Copperfield and Oliver Twist as good examples—that listeners are more easily transported by what they hear. Listeners can also control their experience, changing speeds or setting a timer so that the book stops playing if they fall asleep.
Audiobooks also allow us to access publications when we cannot pick up a physical book, such as cooking or exercising.

BOOK REVIEW

ALL CORRUPTION ARE NOT EQUAL
Yuen Yuen Ang (2020) China’s Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption, pp. 266, Cambridge University Press.
By Patrick O. Okigbo 111

China’s global dominance as the second-largest economy in the world is irrefutable.  Embracing market reforms in 1978, China has delivered dizzying economic growth at a 10 per cent average annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate.  Although China’s GDP growth rate slowed (5.2 per cent in 2023), it still outperforms its peer countries.  In poverty alone, China has exited over 850 million people from abject poverty, with the poverty rate dropping from 88 per cent in 1981 to 1.7 per cent in 2019.

All the progress was achieved under a cloud of persistent corruption. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, in 1995, China scored 21.6 per cent, ranking as the 40th most corrupt country out of 41 countries, and 41 per cent in 2020, ranking as 80th out of 180 countries.

This seeming conundrum challenges conventional thinking on the impact of corruption on economic growth.  The long-held convention, especially in Nigeria, is that corruption makes economic progress impossible.  Yuen Yuen Ang, a professor of political science, has put a big hole in that balloon.  Her latest book, “China’s Gilded Age,” posits that all corruption is not equal.  Some types of corruption hurt economic growth worse than others.
Ang sets out to unbundle corruption from its monolithic definition, such as in the popular rankings where a score is applied to every country.  She unbundled corruption into qualitatively distinct types and then measured them across 15 countries to conclude that different types of corruption have differential economic impacts.

The first dimension differentiates the nature of the corruption between two-way exchanges (between state and social actors) and direct theft from government coffers.  This distinction is significant because where the former entails (“exchange”) generates some benefits for the transacting parties, a raid on the state coffers (“theft”) generates a net loss for society.  The situation worsens when the stolen funds are in foreign bank accounts, used to buy assets in a foreign country, or buried underground (as reported in Nigeria).

The second dimension highlights the difference between corruption involving the elite (such as politicians and other leaders) and non-elite actors (such as regular civil servants and street-level bureaucrats: police officers, customs officers, and frontline providers of public services).  The corruption involving the elites includes control of access to valuable resources (budget allocations, contracts, licenses, waivers, etc.). In contrast, those involving the low-level actors consist of discretion within a narrow sphere of influence: traffic ticketing, processing official documents, etc.  The corruption involving the elite has a more than proportionate economic impact due to the high monetary value.

Using these two dimensions, Ang categorised corruption into four variants.  The two variants of corruption involving theft include petty theft and grand theft. Petty theft refers to stealing, embezzlement, or extorting amongst street-level bureaucrats.  Think of bribes to the traffic police and other low-level bureaucrats.  Grand theft refers to stealing, embezzlement, or misappropriating large sums of money by the elite: senior political and economic leaders and those with access to or control of public funds.  While all forms of corruption are harmful, these two variants of corruption are toxic because they subtract value from the system while adding nothing in return.

The two variants of corruption involving value exchange between the state and social actors include speed money and access money.  Speed money refers to the small bribes paid to low-level bureaucrats to “speed things up” or workaround bureaucrat bottlenecks.  Access money refers to the exchange between high-level elites and other social actors.  In this variant, the social actors bribe powerful officials to access special privileges: licenses, contracts, budget allocation, waivers, etc.

The book points out that, like drugs, the different types of corruption are harmful, but they harm differently.  Both Petty theft and Grand theft are like a toxic drug that destroys the system.  Speed money is like a painkiller, while Access money is like anabolic steroids; both can help one solve a problem, but over time, there is a price to pay for the side effects.

Here is the difference between the type of corruption in China and the one prevalent in Nigeria.  China has a “growth-friendly” form of corruption.  For the political elite, career progression and financial rewards from graft are linked to economic prosperity.  From the lowest Communist Party official to the Politburo members, the only way to progress is to deliver economic and social progress.  Progress is measured using clear terms and appropriately rewarded with higher responsibilities within the Party.  No one moves from a position in the Party to a higher one without delivering measurable economic growth.  The situation is much different in Nigeria, where failed politicians (like Governors) are rewarded with a higher office (Senate) without their parties or society pushing back.

Corruption in China is “transactional”, where party officials operate a “profit-sharing” model.  They accept graft to provide “access” for companies to win bids or provide a service.  In most cases, the beneficiary of the corruption is the leading or well-qualified service provider.  On the contrary, in Nigeria, the political elite steals directly from the pot without considering service provision.  While in China, corruption takes the form of extending a “helping hand”, the political elite in Nigeria “grab” from the business, not minding if such action leads to the death of that enterprise.

This practice permeates from the elite down to the street-level public officials.  Like their Nigerian counterparts, they need to be better paid and have a seat at the feeding troughs.  They, too, operate a “profit-sharing” model against the extortionist model that exists in Nigeria.  Given that the entire system is primed for delivering measurable economic and financial progress, the junior-level officers’ performance outputs are measured and become the basis for their progression within the service.  The graft at that level is also primed towards delivering progress versus extortion.

Although all variants of corruption are present in every country, there is always a dominant type, and it determines the impact of corruption on the state’s economic performance. “Access money” is the most prevalent form of corruption in China.  From a capitalist point of view, it is seen as a form of investment.  In places like the United States, corporations spend billions of dollars “lobbying” for various access forms because the returns on the investment exceed the cost.  This variant of corruption is mutually beneficial to both the government elite and the social actors.  While it encourages the politically connected capitalists to invest and build, the political elite secures the investments which enable their advancement within the Party.  Like steroids, “access money” has its risks.  According to Ang, corruption can fuel an economic collapse through speculative investments in one sector (real estate), widening income inequality between the connected and nonconnected capitalists, and entrenched vested interests that can block liberalisation.

Cognizant that corruption in whatever form is a disorder that needs to be rooted out, the leadership of China’s Communist Party displayed a visible, verifiable commitment to its fight against corruption.  Starting in 1988, the Party invested significant resources in capacity-building programmes on corruption reforms with commitment from the Politburo’s highest levels to the local leaders.[1]  The Party made public examples of senior party officials, including Bo Xilai, a “princeling” of the Communist Party.  Bo Xilai is the son of Bo Yibo, one of the Eight Elders of the Communist Party.  He was a former Mayor of Dalian, governor of Liaoning, Minister of Commerce, and member of the Politburo and Communist Party Secretary of Chongqing.  He was in line to become Prime Minister of China, yet he is serving a life sentence in a Chinese prison.

The commitment of the Communist Party has resulted in a pattern where although “access money” is the prevalent variant of corruption, there is a visible decline in embezzlement of government funds, misuse or misappropriation of public funds, and extortive practices.  The government understands that to fight corruption, it needs to channel it away from its most destructive forms.  It has achieved this feat by creating both positive and negative incentives.

Public officials know that when they achieve economic progress in their government units, they qualify for performance bonuses and much higher responsibilities.  In China, career advancement is based on measurable performance and not ethnicity, religion, nepotism, or other ills.  The Chinese government proved its commitment to punish anyone who goes afoul of the law, irrespective of how blue their blood may be. If Bo Xilai can spend the rest of his life in jail, who is that lowly public servant who wishes to indulge in extortive corruption?
Performance measurement and reward are valuable tools for fighting corruption.  Although China does not have universal plebiscites, party operatives and public servants know that delivering results is the most assured way to advance in one’s career.  This practice leads to intense competition between the regions to experiment with policies and strategies that make their regions attractive to investors.  The more investment they attract to the area, the higher their standing within the Party.  The Chinese who gifted bureaucracy to the world have deepened their performance measurement to drive performance and minimise the opportunities for destructive forms of corruption.  Nigeria needs to introduce performance in their public service.
Using the “Unbundled Corruption Index” (UCI),

China is in the same ballpark as Nigeria regarding corruption; yet, China can deliver enviable economic growth, but Nigeria can’t.  The difference is in the variant of corruption in both countries.  Corruption will continue to impact Nigeria’s economic development because its variant of corruption, “Grand Theft”, is anti-development.  State resources are siphoned away (stolen), resulting in various forms of socio-economic underdevelopment that make the country unattractive to investors.  Unlike China’s variant of corruption, the situation is “access money,” a form of exchange that encourages a type of investor to see corruption as a form of investment.

Governments should use the new typology of corruption to seek a more in-depth understanding of the type of monster they seek to cage.  This understanding should inform the anti-corruption strategy in different countries.  This analysis should clarify to Nigeria that “Grand Theft” is inimical to economic growth and will slowly but surely lead to the drying up of investments in the country.

There is evidence that the China Communist Party looked the other way when the corruption led to economic growth but decided to crack down on the practice when it started affecting that same growth and becoming a societal virus.
While Bo Xilai’s incarceration is sometimes seen as part of Xi Jingping’s powerplay to retain control of the party, there is no arguing the evidence of his corrupt practices.

Patrick Okigbo 111 is the Chief Executive of Nextier Limited, a policy advisory company based in Abuja.