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What is kleptocracy?

COMMENT In 2004 Transparency International named Indonesia president Suharto as the most corrupt world leader of the past 20 year who stole between US$15 billion to US$35 billion. He topped notorious kleptocrat Ferdinand Marcos of the Phillipines who robbed between US$5 billion to US$10 billion.

What is actually kleptocracy?

‘Klepto’ is thief, ‘cracy’ is rule.

Therefore, literally kleptocracy means ‘rule by thieves’.


In 2004 Transparency International named Indonesia president Suharto as the most corrupt world leader of the past 20 year who stole between US$15 billion to US$35 billion.


He topped notorious kleptocrat Ferdinand Marcos of the Phillipines who robbed between US$5 billion to US$10 billion.

It involves:


  • A rule of government of any possible kind, which those in power exploit and steal national resources;

  • Those in power who used power and official position for personal gain or to steal from its people, and aim to stay in power through corruption, collusion and nepotism;

  • A government dominated by unethical leaders but who pretend to be honest, when in reality there is rampant greed and involvement in corruption;

  • Impostion of a massive tax burden on the public and enterprises;

  • Treating country’s treasure as though it were their own bank account;

  • Exploitation of the wealth of the public and uses the proceeds for their own use or glorification including spending funds on luxury projects to obtain more commissions;

  • A government that practices cronyism and nepotism by awarding prime contracts and civil service posts to relatives or personal friends rather than being given to competent candidates and

  • A government that create projects at policy level as the main reason to funnel money out of the treasury to themselves or cronies with little viability or necessity of the projects -  more projects and programmes mean more money - when in actual fact, those are public money and should be used to build schools, hospitals, kampung roads and houses for the public.

In order for a country to be qualified to be labelled as a kleptocracy, it has to meet the above criteria.

What happened to the corrupted leaders?

Eventually, most of the corrupted leaders were ousted, got arrested, prosecuted or sentenced to life in prison.

Worst of all, their spouses, children, grandchildren and families suffered and were humiliated for generations.

Are you ready for the consequences of these actions?


AKHBAR SATAR is president, Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M).

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