Posted by Vi Hughes on Aug 08, 2019
This past Tuesday we heard from Mark Polet, a retired biologist, who along with his wife Terry has spent the last seven years in the middle east helping companies to become more ethical in their business practices.
They are currently helping a cleaning company in Tajikistan. Tajikistan is a small Persian speaking country that borders Afghanistan, with which it shares many of the challenges found in that part of the world. Tajikistan is the smallest and poorest country in the region, but, is also very culturally rich.  Tajikistan is a former Soviet Republic, which has since suffered through a civil war and is now a familial dictatorship.  As the country is extremely poor they do not pay their civil service a living wage and they are expected to pay bribes to ‘buy’ their jobs, collect bribes from their customers and pay kick backs to their superiors. For those who refuse to pay bribes the penalties can be very harsh. School students who have been doing well will get final marks that are failing, young men in the military can suffer beatings, businesses ‘caught’ on trumped up charges of not meeting regulations or paying all of their taxes must pay onerous fines ( bribes). All of this results in a society that is very untrusting of everyone but their inner family.
 
Their host family is a devout muslim family that love what Mark and his wife do in Christian service.  He compared what they have been doing to our Rotary Four Way Test. Their overall lack of honesty means that the truth is often hard to discern. It is not fair to anyone and even those who try to be fair get tarred along with everyone else. Goodwill does not exist as the atmosphere of mistrust shadows everything. The benefits flow only to those who threaten and mistreat others. Mark and his wife work with small businesses helping them with payroll, labour standards, bookkeeping and taxes to become so scrupulously honest that the government auditors have a very hard time finding holes to use to extract bribes. It costs the business more in taxes and less in bribes, but they also gain personal dignity. For example, many companies there keep multiple sets of books, some of which do not include the bribes and kickbacks paid to others, or the wages paid to some employees. In one business they started keeping only one set of books which included everything and confessed their past mistakes to the auditor, who was impressed that they were so honest. Along the way they have come to know some government inspectors who now have respect for their business practices.
 
In a final comparison with the Four Way Test for this business they can now say yes to all of the criteria. Yes it is the truth, it is fair as they now pay all taxes due, it has built goodwill, as the people they come in contact with respect them for their honesty, and this has proven beneficial to all.
 
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