Mapping Corruption

Mapping Corruption

Since 1995, Transparency International has published the annual Corruption Perceptions Index. The 2013 index ranks 177 countries and territories according to the perceived corruption of their governments. A rank of 0 means a country's government is not perceived as corrupt. A score of 100 means a thoroughly corrupt public sector. Here is how the world looked in 2013:

The Best and the Worst Public Sectors

Denmark and New Zealand's public sectors were perceived to be the least corrupt and tied with a rank of number 1. They were followed by Finland, Sweden, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland. At the bottom of the list were Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Sudan, Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia. Not surprisingly, the economic performance of many countries is correlated with corruption.

In their 2013 survey of the Asia Pacific region, Transparency International found China, Sri Lanka, India, The Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar ranked hideously low. They all scored 80 or lower in the corruption perception index.  According to the World Bank, these countries' 2012 per capita GDP (or monetary value of all products and services sold in a country within a year averaged out per person living in a country) were as follows:

China          ...            $6,091*

Sri Lanka   ...            $2,923

India           ...            $1,503

The Philippines ... $2,587

Thailand              ...  $5,480

Indonesia           ...  $3,557

Myanmar           ...  no data

*GDP per capita for these countries is listed in the equivalent US dollars per person.

By contrast, the top seven countries had the following per capita GDP in 2012:

Denmark           ...  $56,364

New Zealand   ...  $38,637

Finland              ...  $45,694

Sweden              ...  $55,040

Norway              ...  $99,636

Singapore          ...  $52,052

Switzerland       ...  $78,928


But how do bribes translate into economic inefficiency? In one chapter of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), Tom Vanderbilt mentions that perhaps underpaid government officials are the cause of obstruction to economic prosperity. He also suggests that some corruption may actually be good for an economy (because it could hasten much needed development projects).  He implies that it is the government itself that is the vehicle for economic prosperity or doom--an assumption that grampa thoroughly disputed in Poor By Design.

Bribed: where, how much and whom?

To get a glimpse of what role bribes play in a country's economy, we can look at the data published on The site allows for people to self-report when they've paid a bribe. The data below is for India and the bribe units are in crore (or ten million).



Of course, there are limits to what we can learn from these data. What we see is dependent on where the website has been widely adopted, regions where there is internet access, literacy rates, etc. Nonetheless, the graphs are good indicators of the problematic functions within various governmental departments in various Indian cities. Where the link to economic performance and corruption weakens seems to be when looking at the number for bribes paid by department.

The lower graph shows that the majority of bribes that people in India paid were to the police. But most of India's economic power is in manufacturing chemicals. How is the police interfering with the economic growth of India then? I still agree with grampa that corruption as we tend to think of it is not the cause of widespread misery and lack of development. There are other structural reasons.