Since 1995, Transparency International, an international non-government organisation, has been monitoring global corporate and political corruption in international development
Since 1995, Transparency International, an international non-government organisation, has been monitoring global corporate and political corruption in international development. Every year it produces its Corruption Perceptions Index in which it ranks a total of 175 countries on the degree of transparency and legality there is in their use of public funds. These rankings are decided by a large body of independent institutions specialising in international governance and business practices. They use a series of indicators and observances to place numerical values against each country.
What is the Corruption Perceptions Index?
What does this year’s index show?
Why does corruption still happen and appear to be unchallenged?
Figure 1: Some of the indicators used to detect corruption by Transparency International
Due to the character of corruption, it is naturally difficult to measure exactly the extent to which it may be present in a country. Though one could use proven evidence as a base for measuring corruption, there is a danger that this would only show how good the policing of the crime is in a particular country. Instead, a perception is seen as the most accurate measure Transparency International can legitimately use.
Popular media were very quick to highlight the changes in standings to countries that have a history of underhand and vague allocations of public funds. Despite well publicised efforts by the Chinese authorities to remove corruption from public servants’ lives, the country has fallen twenty places in the rankings since last year. Other BRIC nations have also not fared well in the ranking, with Brazil, Russia and India all featuring in the bottom two thirds of the table.
Many countries that have endured long standing conflicts have struggled to stay out of the bottom part of the league table but one should not assume that the whole table reads like a development spectrum. No country gained a perfect score with no evidence of corruption indicating that in almost every country there is the perception (and evidence) of mishandling of public funds.
While Turkey saw the greatest drop since last year (eleven places to 64th) while Egypt saw one of the greatest improvement in the league table; up twenty places to 94th. Somalia and North Korea share jointly the last place on the table, scoring just eight points out of one hundred for anti-corruption measures. Denmark on the other hand retained its leading position as the country that is perceived to experience the highest levels of transparency and legality in the use of public funds of the 175 considered.
Figure 2: Regional averages for anti-corruption measures
(Source: Transparency International)
As one looks ever deeper at inequality and development issues, the story of corruption seems never far from the headlines and many will cite it as a key reason why some countries seem unable to develop at rates similar to their neighbours and why aid agreements and international trust break down. Corruption steals resources from those whom need them most, can undermine business confidence and investment and despite being illegal, appears to prosper in some countries, leading many to question why more is not done to curb its appeal.
Investigations by Transparency International show that the desire to develop fast growing economies often lies at the heart of corruption and ‘growth at all costs’ becomes a common rhetoric. Equally rapid gains in economic success for many countries has created a culture of impunity where those in control of the funds, may not be questioned or be held accountable as they are deemed to be creating positive outcomes for the countries they represent. Corruption that is harder to shift is that which is entrenched in some countries culture from grassroots level, all the way to those who hold the most power and where mishandling of funds is seen as in epidemic and everyday proportions and where one’s ability to pay dictates the access one might have to essential public services. Conflict zones can easily become breeding grounds for corruption as a lack of central governance, no matter how temporary can cause a breakdown in the correct flow and regulation of funds.
Whilst actions are being taken to address corruption, such as the 2011 UK Bribery Act, there is little doubt that more should be done to try to reduce corruption and its associated criminality. Transparency International suggests that countries at the bottom of the table need to mirror some of the ‘transparency policies’ that have allowed those countries at the top end of the table to prosper and their ‘Unmask the Corrupt’ campaign calls for wider use of publically owned registers that show exactly who controls which parts of national budgets and where it is spent. Countries that are strong in anti-corruption measures also have a role to play by ensuring that their strong legislation does not actually push the problem into neighbouring countries and trading partners.
Traditionally these are Brazil, Russia, India and China (while some definitions will also include South Africa). They represent the next wave of countries that are making the transition from developing to developed nations.
The illegal use of power or public funds to further a person or groups of people's personal wealth or influence.
Using internet search engines, students can find examples of newspaper cartoons that refer to corruption in a particular country (India and Nigeria produce some good examples). Students can print out a cartoon of their choice and annotate it to show what the artist was trying to say about the state of corruption and its impact on the people of that particular country.
Using the Transparency International 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index report students should choose one country in the bottom half of the scale and another in the top half and compare how easy it is to get online information about how public funds are collected and spent.
A discussion can be had about the global conditions that might be necessary in order to reduce the individual ‘need’ for corruption in countries where corruption is sadly a part of everyday life. Students should consider whether we all have a role to play in stamping corruption out of financial systems.
BBC: China's corruption probe bares its teeth
BBC: Bribery - What is it and what's the penalty?
Corruption Perceptions Index 2014
Time Magazine: ‘China tumbles in annual corruption index’
The Telegraph: ‘Mapped, the world’s most corrupt officials’
The Independent: ‘Global corruption index, Australia drops out of top ten countries and Britain is not good enough’
China and North Korea
The BRICS are coming
Victorine Olwanda on Microfinance
Seung-Ook Lee on China and North Korea
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