Transparency International (TI), in their 5th Global Corruption Barometer, gives us an insight into corruption in over 60 countries worldwide. TI also issues a yearly Corruption Perception Index (CPI), but while this focuses on expert views, the barometer evaluates the general public’s perception and experiences of corruption and how it will change in the future.
The Global Corruption Barometer is essential as it provides data on which corruption tackling schemes are evaluated and on which new schemes are planned. By establishing which public agencies have the highest level of corruption, the barometer helps set priorities for reform. In addition, gaining insight into the frequency and cost of bribery helps understand just how the public is victimised by corruption – and the very high price that corruption exerts on the poorest.
Bribery is Increasing
The average number of respondents who were asked for a bribe in the past year is now almost twice as high (17%) as it was in 2003. In some countries such as Cambodia, Cameroon and Albania, this figure even exceeds 70%. Bribe demands were particularly widespread in the police and judiciary, particularly worrying because these are the very enforcement mechanisms crucial for fighting corruption.
A Pessimistic Outlook
Overall, the global public in 2007 is markedly gloomier than in the past. Over half of respondents believe corruption will increase over the next three years, a 10% rise on 2003. An equal number felt their government’s efforts to fight corruption were ineffective. Some wealthy countries such as the UK, Germany and the U.S. are particularly pessimistic about the future despite experiencing low levels of corruption themselves. In contrast African countries are more optimistic about the future – only 33% believe corruption will increase compared to 58% in the EU and North America. A possible explanation for this discrepancy might be the frequent reporting of large-scale scandals in Western media, which has rendered people more sensitive to the issue.
As in previous reports political parties and parliaments scored badly in the public’s perception – they are seen as being the most compromised by corruption. Given that they wield the most power, this is not particularly reassuring.
The barometer establishes that respondents from low and middle income brackets are hit the hardest by bribery, regardless of whether respondents were from richer or poorer countries. In addition, younger people are also more likely to pay bribes than older people, just as men are more likely to pay bribes than women. However, both of these phenomena can be explained by the fact that neither older citizens nor women report many contacts with agencies, such as the police or the judiciary, where demands for bribes are more prevalent.
Work to be Done
Unsurprisingly, in the face of some worsening statistics, Transparency International is calling for more transparency. One of its aims is to include more countries in their future barometers, and indeed they should – China and the Middle East are not covered, and only a handful of African countries are included. Shifting the focus onto those countries that face the greatest corruption problem would balance out the report.
Written by Cosmo Macfarlane and Benjamin Schoo of the Atlantic Initiative
Related Material on Atlantic Community:
- Foreign Policy on the World’s Weakest States
- Niklas Keller on Putting the Squeeze on Corruption in Afghanistan