The latest annual Corruptions Perception Index (CPI) 2019, by the global agency Transparency International, released recently, makes for sober reading https://www.transparency.org/cpi2019. The index, which ranks 180 countries is based on perceived public sector corruption, as determined by business surveys and expert opinion. On a scale of 0-100, 0 is extremely corrupt and 100 is very clean, the 2019 edition finds that more than two thirds of countries in the world have a score of less than 50, with an average of 43. The CPI comprises a number of sub-elements, canvassing country risk, strength of institutions and competitiveness measures, among a host of others.
Overall, as with a number of previous years, the developed world occupies the top ten positons. Interestingly it is the smaller economies that dominate the top echelon, notably Denmark and New Zealand (equal first), Finland (third), with equal fourth belonging to Switzerland, Singapore and Sweden. Rounding out the top ten are Norway, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany. Speculating, perhaps smaller economies have more cohesive economies and societies, and therefore more trust in key institutions, and greater accountability by these institutions?
Of other developed countries, it is instructive that the US has fallen from 16th place a few years ago to be 23th in the most recent index, (while the UK has also slid). Issues in the body politic, such as accountability and transparency concerns have intensified in the U.S.
How does India fare? In the latest CPI, India is ranked 80th in the world, with a score of 41. In terms of the BRIC countries with whom India is often compared, India is on a par with China, and ahead of Brazil (106th) and Russia (137th).
India is categorized as being in the Asia-Pacific region in the CPI. Asia Pacific comprises 31 nations. The average score for Asia Pacific nations is 45, which means that India, with a score of 41, is considered below the Asia Pacific Region. It is ranked equal 13th in Asia out of the 31 nations. However, it should be noted that the Asia Pacific region, as classified, is extremely diverse, comprising countries that are both highly advanced and much less developed, with vastly differing economic, political and institutional structures. This may make direct comparisons difficult. Nonetheless, the regional breakdown is instructive and at times surprising, For example, Bhutan is ranked 6th in Asia Pacific and 25th in the world.
India does perform better than a range of other countries in the Asia Pacific region, including some emerging economies such as Indonesia 85th in the world, Vietnam 96th globally and Thailand 101th in the world.
In a dynamic sense, India’s performance has been concerning over the last few years. Since 2015 (and noting fluctuations in the total number of countries ranked), India has gone backwards by four places, with its score virtually unchanged. What is notable in our view, is that in this time period India’s business competitiveness has improved in areas such as approvals processes and red tape, as reflected in India’s enhanced performance in the World Bank Doing Business Index. It appears that gains in specific business competitiveness fundamentals has not been matched by improvements in corruption, in fact quite the reverse. There is still considerable work to be done. To be fair though since 2012, India’s performance in the CPI has improved markedly (India was ranked 94th in 2012 out of 176 countries).
In recent years, the Corruption Perceptions index has pointed to a number of core issues for India including greater transparency in election funding, the need for stronger press freedoms, addressing glaring inequality in economy and society and responding effectively to growing community and grass roots clamor for change. These are pointers for the future.
Dr. Anand Kulkarni is Associate Director, Planning, Performance and Risk at Victoria University, Australia. The views expressed here are those of the author.
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