So the new Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index came out last week. If you are a development geek — cough, cough — this is like Beaujolais Nouveau Day.
Not that there are any /huge/ surprises. The top ten slots are dominated by the same countries, year after year — Finland, the Netherlands, Singapore. European readers can be cheered by the fact that European countries occupy 13 of the top 20 slots.
The CPI is, of course, a perceptions survey. They poll a lot of investors and NGOs and whatnot and ask what they think. There are some obvious issues with this methodology. Other hand, they try to be rigorous about it, and keep the tests constant from country to country and from year to year. If you’re trying to measure corruption — an inherently difficult task — this is probably about the best broad-guage metric we have.
Meanwhile, a few geeky comments.
Worst country in Europe: Belarus. Big surprise, right? Belarus scores a miserable 2.1 out of a possible 10, putting them at 151st in the world. That’s below Pakistan, Nigeria, or the Republic of Congo. Awful.
Second worst country in Europe: Russia. 2.5 out of 10. #121 in the world. Tied with Nepal, the Philippines, and Rwanda. Again, no surprise.
Worst EU member: Romania. 3.1, 84th place. Tied with Panama, Algeria, and Sri Lanka. This I think is slightly unfair. Romania has made a lot of progress in the last couple of years. In fact, the current Romanian government is on the verge of toppling because of a corruption scandal. You won’t see that happen in Algeria or Panama.
But, as I said, there are some inherent problems with the methodology. It’s really measuring reputation, after all. And reputations take a long time to change. Romania’s reputation is bad, and it will take them some years to work their way out of this. The process may already have begun; their numerical score has crept up from 2.6 in 2002 and 2.9 in 2004.
Worst “Old” (pre-2004) EU member: Oh, come on, you know this one. It’s Greece, of course — 4.4, #54, just behind Tunisia and tied with Costa Rica.
Of the 10 new members admitted in 2004, nine have better scores than Greece. In some cases — Slovenia, Estonia, Malta — they’re much better. Of the 27 EU members, Greece is 24th, with only Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania doing worse. What’s the opposite of kudos?
Now let’s take a close-up look at my favorite European region — the Balkans.
Best in the region? Well… Greece, actually. Yes, they’re bad, but all their neighbors are worse. After Greece (4.4), the second best is Bulgaria, with 4.0. Then we have Croatia (3.4), Moldova (3.2), Romania (3.1), Serbia (3.0), Bosnia (2.9), Macedonia (2.7), and Albania (2.6).
Neighboring countries? Turkey fits the pattern nicely, with 3.8. Other hand, Slovenia (6.4) and Hungary (5.2) do not. With the interesting exception of Croatia, all of the other Balkan countries were carved out of the decaying husk of the Ottoman Empire. (Romania and Moldova were never formally part of the Ottoman state, but they paid tribute to the Porte and were governed by bureacrats sent from Istanbul.) The 19th-century Ottoman Empire was notorious for corruption at every level. It looks like that tradition is dying hard (if it’s dying at all).
Within the region, there’s a rough correlation with income. Greece, the richest country in the Balkans, is the least corrupt; Albania, the poorest, is the most corrupt. Not surprising, but it’s interesting to note that here, too, Croatia, breaks the pattern — the rich-ish Croats should be right behind the Greeks, not down there with the Moldovans.
The Albanians are the worst, but they’re not that bad. Their numerical score is 2.6; Romania had the same score four years ago, and Serbia was 2.3 as recently as 2003. Serb nationalists like to demonize Albanians as fabulously corrupt — a land of drug smugglers and gun-runners, “the descendants of Agas and Beys” — but, in fact, the difference is not that big. Albania is where Serbia was three years ago, and only half a point behind Serbia today. From the point of view of Finland (9.6) or Denmark (9.5), they’re all looking pretty aga-and-bey-like.
And, of course, everybody in the region is ahead of Russia.
— You know what I’d love to see? I’d love to see some scattergraphs correlating these scores with things like PPP GDP per capita. You’d see a cloud of dots around a rough diagonal line, with scores tending to rise with income. But there’d be interesting outliers on either side.
Surely someone, somewhere must have done this.