Wednesday, 4 December 2013

2013 Corruption index Now Published

The NGO Transparency International has for a number of years scored and ranked countries according to how corrupt their public sectors are perceived to be (the CPI or "murk meter"). This information has frequently been used by xenophobic collectors and dealers of dugup antiquities to justify their no-questions-asked approach to handling antiquities, arguing that they are the product of "corruption in foreign regimes" which therefore deserve no respect. That the entire world almost figures in varying shades of red on the map (with many of the market countries a feelgood yellowish) is considered by them evidence enough that it is not they who are doing the wrong (spot the self-serving two wrongs make a right argument).

 2013 edition of its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) was published on Tuesday amid a discussion of their usefulness as a realistic picture of the phenomenon.
Drawing on 13 data sources, and based on the perceptions of businesspeople and country experts, the 2013 CPI gives 177 countries a score from zero to 100, where zero is a perception that the country's public sector is "highly corrupt" and 100 is "very clean". Denmark and New Zealand top the list as the countries with the lowest perceived levels of public sector corruption; Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia are the bottom three. More than two-thirds of the 177 countries examined scored below 50, a proportion similar to previous years. Australia is labelled one of "the biggest decliners", alongside countries such as Syria, Libya, Mali, Spain, Mauritius, Iceland and Guatemala.
Critics have attacked the CPI's reliance on the opinions of a small group of experts and businesspeople which embeds a powerful and misleading elite bias in popular perceptions of corruption and corrupts perceptions. Obviously it depends which businessmen are being asked. Transparency International admit the problem:
"Corruption generally comprises illegal activities, which are deliberately hidden and only come to light through scandals, investigations or prosecutions," says the NGO. "There is no meaningful way to assess absolute levels of corruption in countries or territories on the basis of hard empirical data" [...] While the CPI may be Transparency International's most famous product, the NGO acknowledges it cannot tell the full story and now produces a range of other measures, including the Global Corruption Barometer, which looks at citizens' perceptions and experiences of corruption, and the Bribe Payers Index, which ranks exporting countries according to the perceived likelihood that their firms will bribe abroad.
Claire Provost, 'Is Transparency International's measure of corruption still valid?', The Guardian 3rd Dec 2013 


Cultural Property Observer said...

Are you suggesting a little corruption is not so bad a thing as long as its in a country that has a cultural bureaucracy that takes a dim view of collecting? That's what it sounds like. Please clarify. I'd suggest there is a relationship between corrupt, grasping governments and a state owns everything approach that stomps on collectors (or at least the ones that are not politically connected). You might disagree, but the stats don't lie. Sure they are not perfect, but its far easier to quantify perceptions of corruption than actual corruption that is hidden. And perhaps, the stats undercount in situations where corruption is considered just a fact of life.

Paul Barford said...

"suggesting a little corruption is not so bad a thing"
No, I do not see where you can read that into what I wrote. I think there are questions about what those colours and numbers mean in this particular case. I think there is a difference between what kind of 'sweetener' might be involved in getting a government contract to supply the army with black treacle and a villager getting a rubber stamp on an official document. That's what this was about.

I'd also say that there is a perception over here that the way government contracts were awarded after the Iraq war (at least) would lead one to wonder at the colour used to shade the USA. One man's "lobbying" ("considered just a fact of life" in Washington) is another man's concept of improper relationships between interest groups and lawmakers.

I think it would be a mistake to impose one - artefact centred - interpretation on the colours here, just because it suits you. What about testing it against other indeces, ivory poaching, illegal whaling, forest removal, drug trafficking, wildlife trafficking, vehicle theft etc etc. Or literacy, joblessness/job security and women's rights? Do the patterns come out so simplistically each and every time, or just with antiquities, and in that case, what makes the antiquities trade so different?

But then if we look at two of the countries you are incessantly going on about in entirely black and critical tones, China and Turkey, are they as dark red as your model predicts?

They have the same colour on the scale as Estonia, but I never see you "observing" about Estonia. The Balkans come out at the same level, and Britain with its nighthawks and huge antiquities trade comes out "nice and clean" on this scale. As does Germany with its Munich munzentrade and Switzerland....

I think things are a lot more complex than your simplistic (and self-intersted) equation would have us believe.

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