Roots of the crisis
Source: O Globo, 23/06/2005
By Emerson Kapaz
For fifteen days throughout TV Globo's programming, including prime time, the Brazilian Institute of Competitive Ethics (Etco) and Rede Globo aired an unprecedented campaign on the theme? Ethical Values ?, with a well-defined objective: to propose to society a reflection around informal practices and habits, which are prohibited by law, but which on a daily basis are often considered normal.
Coincidentally, the initiative came at a time of intense debate regarding ethical practices in the country, motivated by a series of complaints about the management of the State. However, the campaign is the result of a much earlier history that is intertwined with Etco's trajectory in its two years of existence.
In the beginning, the objective was to bring to light the themes of evasion, smuggling and adulteration of products, at the time seen only as police cases. At this stage, the dominant thesis was to show that the illegality framework seriously compromised the development and generation of formal jobs and wages by companies that paid taxes.
The conclusion of this stage occurred with the disclosure of a study prepared by the McKinsey consultancy demonstrating that informality consumed 4 out of 10 dollars of national wealth. That was when the government started to consider the issue of ethics in competition as a strategic priority.
In parallel, the institute started a crusade, also successful, to discuss with judges and parliamentarians effective, immediate and consistent ways of curbing illegal practices that made a strong competitive differential. The work culminated, in part, in the end of the granting of injunctions to fuel fraudsters and, in part, in the Piracy CPI that gave name and CPF of a great number of companies and people involved in the illegal trade. As a result, the National Council for Combating Piracy also emerged, uniting government and society in the same space for dialogue.
The campaign? Ethical Values? corresponded to the third, and certainly the most complex, link in this entire chain of events. This is because its target was cultural habits crystallized by practices that come from the time of colonial Brazil. Among the creators of the campaign, there was full awareness that discussing ethical values involving, for example, public officials and tax officials would result in controversies, but there was also the awareness that delicate situations require firm and courageous attitudes. Between one extreme and the other, the dominant purpose was to strengthen institutions in order to help citizens and society to support, in daily attitudes, those who respect the law, rejecting those who do not respect it.
Episodes recently shown by the media, such as the speech by deputy Roberto Jefferson, revealing the backstage of the financing of political campaigns, cause outrage. Facts that hurt ethics are not a monopoly on politicians. Although they are punctual, they occur with greater or lesser intensity among entrepreneurs, civil servants, inspectors, professionals and ordinary citizens. Hence the key message of the campaign:? No, this is not the type of Brazilian I want for the future of my country.?
When saying no, even in the simplest way? obedience to the traffic signal, requirement of invoice, not buying pirated product? the citizen will be collaborating in a great transforming society effort.
More than two centuries ago, Adam Smith, in? The Wealth of Nations ?, defined the drama of corruption as a phenomenon common to countries undergoing modernization. Inspired by the English experience, he demonstrated how the beneficiaries of the old corruption join the ranks, without relent, to maintain privileges, staunch opponents who are of everything that can benefit the democratization of rights and the universality of citizenship.
Keeping the proportions in time and in history, Brazil has all the conditions to follow the same path, strengthen its institutions and count on the practical manifestation of the citizens. If criticism and debate are the oxygen of democracy, the citizen and society are the foundations for the renewal of habits, customs, in short of ethical and moral values. For what is a nation but its institutions, culture, laws and values?
This is the primary objective of the campaign? Ethical Values ?. Touch the sensitive nerve of the real crisis. The ethical crisis, which precedes that which is at the root of all others. In summary, more than indignation, ethics is action. A public good built by everyone, with small gestures, small attitudes that make ethics inseparable from everyday routine.
EMERSON KAPAZ is president of the Brazilian Institute of Ethics in Competition.
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