Sunday, 29 May 2011

Perception of Corruption

During a recent dataset trawling expedition for a statistics project, I came across the aggregate indictor of corruption- the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). Transparency International (TI) defines corruption as ‘the abuse of entrusted power for private gain, whether it be in public or private sector’. The 2010 CPI measures the public sector corruption perceived to exist in 178 nation states, scoring countries on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very sale), using sources such as Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Economist Intelligence Unit, Freedom House, Global Insight, IMD, and World Economic Forum. Only 26.40% of the countries ranked have an index score above 5; 62.93% have an index score below 4. The top 10 ranked countries are Denmark, New Zealand, Singapore, Finland, Sweden, Canada, Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland, and Norway. UK is ranked 20 (ranked 10th out of 30 EU countries), India is at 87 (also ranked 16th out of 33 Asia-Pacific countries), whilst Brazil is 69. The bottom-dwellers are Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Burundi, Chad, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Somalia. The perceived corruption of 9 countries improved (i.e. corruption was perceived to have decreased) from 2009 to 2010, which includes Bhutan, Haiti, and Qatar. Interestingly, those which deteriorated include Greece, Hungary, Italy, and the United States. Corruption casts its shade on environmental matters as well, especially in public sector. Corrupt governmental officials might deliberate throw up complex bureaucratic bottlenecks unless appeased with green notes. In the case of illegal land encroachments, one often finds that high powers-that-be happily play along with this, for the simple reason that there is a new swimming pool in their backyard. It is not uncommon to see reroutement of funds too. Whether the CPI is a fool-proof indicator remains debatable since the countries are ranked according to the perception of corruption; such qualitative methodologies (conducted via questionnaires on the public seeking their perception of an activity which usually happens under wraps) can suffer from many biases. For instance, the perceived definition of ‘corruption’ would vary in each country (and possibly, each different parts of the country); what might seem corrupt in one country, might be acceptable elsewhere! Comparing CPI indexes of the past (available since 1995) is of no benefit in identifying perceived change in the perceptions of corruption, since it is probable that the data over the years may not be comparable, given the wide range of changes (and/or errors) in sampling, methodology, measuring, and sources (as is in the case of CPI). What it does provide is a rough overview of how matters are perceived as: the reality might be less melodramatic... or harsher.


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