by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera
Transparency International (TI) has been releasing its yearly Corruption Perception Index as a tool to measure the degree to which public sector corruption is perceived in countries all over the world.
Many Filipinos give fleeting attention to this yearly report because they have been so desensitized to corruption and because our local TI-Philippines has not made a habit of conducting a press conference to explain the details of the annual assessment. National authorities, particularly during the Arroyo administration, regularly dismissed these reports as a biased “perception” of foreigners and the political opposition who are out to “embarrass the President”.
But what exactly is the Corruption Perception Index (CPI)? And how are we faring in this assessment?
Corruption “perception” is important because corruption is an illegal activity that is hidden, will not be admitted, and very difficult to measure. Analyzing and measuring the number of investigations launched, number of public officials prosecuted, and scandals that hit a government are good indicators of the extent of corruption in a country. But while these activities offer “non-perception” data, they are often the product of the efficiency of the judicial system, freedom of the press, or activism of civil society organizations and do not picture the full extent of corruption in a country.
The CPI, which is calculated using data from 13 sources by 10 independent institutions, is thus a useful tool to determine whether there has been a change in the perceived level of corruption in a country on a year-to-year basis.
Using a scale from 10 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupt), Transparency International’s 2010 CPI has some very interesting stories to tell. Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore are tied at the top of the list with a score of 9.3, followed by Sweden and Finland at 9.2. Some of our neighbors that we know practice good governance also fare well – Australia (8.7) at #8, Hongkong (8.4) at #13, Japan (7.8) at #17, South Korea (5.4) at #39, and Thailand (3.5) at #78.
Not surprisingly, the Philippines is languishing near the bottom of the global rankings. With a CPI of 2.4, we rank 134th among the 178 countries surveyed. What is surprising is that we are now in the same league as Togo, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Honduras, Bangladesh, and the Mugabe- forsaken country of Zimbabwe.
Now here is a really depressing fact. While many Filipinos routinely looked down and considered Indonesia as our most graft-ridden neighbor, it is now ranked way above us at number 110 with a CPI of 2.8.
And what do Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Zambia, Benin, Guyana, Solomon Islands, El Salvador, Samoa, Tunisia, Trinidad and Tobago, Gabon, and Burkina Faso have in common? Aside from being poor developing countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, they are all ranked higher than the Philippines.
Clearly, poor economic conditions and less developed political systems do not hinder anti-corruption efforts. It is time that we learn from these “less developed” countries.