Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain, according to Transparency International (TI), a non-partisan, global civil society organization founded in 1993 that opposes corruption, and works to facilitate a peaceful worldwide coalition aimed at ending corruption’s devastating effects around the world.
TI believes that corruption has dire global consequences, trapping millions in poverty and misery and breeding social, economic and political unrest by undermining democracy and the rule of law; distorting national and international trade; and threatening the security and sustainability of natural resources.
TI has a useful array of policy products and publications available, two of which I will mention specifically here:
Global Corruption Barometer 2009 (published in English, French, Spanish) presents the main findings of a public opinion survey exploring the general public’s views of corruption, as well as experiences of bribery around the world. It assesses the extent to which key institutions and public services are perceived to be corrupt, measures citizens’ views on government efforts to fight corruption, and this year, for the first time, includes questions about the level of state capture and people’s willingness to pay a premium for clean corporate behavior.
The 2009 Global Corruption Barometer survey interviewed 73,132 people in 69 countries and territories between October 2008 and February 2009. The main findings were:
- Corruption in and by the private sector is of growing concern to the general public
- Political parties and the civil service are perceived on average to be the most corrupt sectors around the world
- Experience of petty bribery is reported to be growing in some parts of the world – with the police the most likely recipients of bribes
- Ordinary people do not feel empowered to speak out about corruption
- Governments are considered to be ineffective in the fight against corruption – a view that has remained worryingly consistent in most countries over time
The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) measures the perceived level of public-sector corruption in 180 countries and territories around the world. The CPI is a "survey of surveys", based on 13 different expert and business surveys. It ranks the countries on a common metric (with 90% confidence intervals), which indicates the perceived level of public-sector corruption in a country/territory.
So - quick check of your corruption perceptions. Which countries on the following list would you rank among 180 nations worldwide as being in the Top 5 Most Corrupt (indicated by a higher number ranking) and Top 5 Least Corrupt (indicated by a lower number ranking)?
- United States
- New Zealand
According to the 2009 CPI, the countries perceived as least corrupt are:
- 1 - New Zealand
- 2 - Denmark
- 3 - Singapore
- 3 (tie)- Sweden
- 5 - Switzerland
According to the 2009 CPI, the countries perceived as most corrupt are:
- 176- Iraq
- 176 (tie) - Sudan
- 178 - Myanmar
- 179 – Afghanistan
- 180 – Somalia
The United States and the United Kingdom are definitely toward the "less corrupt" end of the continuum, but neither leads the way. Some other country rankings you may be wondering about:
- US - #17
- UK - #19
- Brazil - #75
- China - #79
- India - #84
- Russia - #146
- Venezuela - #162
- Iran - #168