What’s your perception of corruption?

Transparency International have just published the 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index, their annual appraisal of the relative levels of public sector corruption worldwide.  I won’t pretend that there are any huge surprises in the results but it will be interesting to see – after the introduction of the Bribery Act – whether or not the UK can improve its position in 2012, from a frankly mediocre 16 this year, into the Top 10 countries alongside New Zealand, Singapore and a number of European nations.

One interesting thing that sticks out is the number of Scandinavian countries that occupy high positions – Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway all rank highly in the table and (though they’re not really Scandinavian) the Netherlands are only a little way behind.  It’s interesting to speculate as to why this may be, since they are all famously liberal  societies where things are often run with a light, permissive touch. However, they are also countries where Public Servants are regarded with respect, and rewarded accordingly. In addition, they are societies where the trappings of wealth are not necessarily regarded in the same way as they are in places like the US or the UK, so maybe there is less pressure on bureaucrats to get money by fair means or foul.  I haven’t reached this conclusion by any particularly scientific means, so it’s probably complete rubbish, but it is food for thought, maybe?

Singapore also maintains a high placing in the hierarchy – partly because their public servants are esteemed and well paid, but also because the prospect of  being flogged for the slightest misdemeanour tends to concentrate the mind.   As someone who is not a great enthusiast for bringing back corporal punishment, I’m inclined to think that living in a regime of fear is too high a price to pay for living in a state free of corruption.

At the other end of the table are another set of predictable names – many counties such as Somalia and Afghanistan, where the rule of law doesn’t always hold sway, and many more blighted by poverty, particularly in Central Africa.  It’s interesting to see that, although still far from perfect, some of the World’s emerging economies such as India and Brazil are making a little headway.  Recent events in India have shown that when the population is subjected to institutional corruption on a grand scale, the advent of increased prosperity brings less tolerance of corruption, and more calls for action to be taken.  There’s a long way to go for these and many other countries but any sign of progress is encouraging.

As for the UK ….. well; BAe are in the spotlight again, and there is speculation that the SFO are close to making a decision about whether or not to launch a formal criminal investigation into allegations of bribery by GPT Special Project Management.  Not quite there yet, are we?

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