I hate corruption. I loathe it. I advocate intolerance for it. But I live in the real world.
Let me start by putting this post into context. The current place I live in is Spain. Specifically its capital, Madrid. Maybe you know, maybe you don’t, Spain is a very corrupt country. People are tired of every new corruption story. It’s an insult and lowers us down every time. More and more people are joining the fight against corruption, and the discussion keeps growing. To focus the Spanish situation, I’d like to contrast with numbers and give it a worldwide perspective.
Transparency International is a global movement with one vision: a world in which government, business, civil society and the daily lives of people are free of corruption. Leading the fight against corruption to turn this vision into reality. The organization carries out each year a study in 174 countries to give an indication of the level of corruption in each nation. The cleanest countries have a score of 100. The most corrupt score is 0.
Following, the Corruption Perceptions Index in 2014.
If you wish to see an overview of corruption in your country, visit this site.
Bribes and hidden deals don’t only steal resources from the most vulnerable – they undermine justice and economic development, and destroy public trust in government and leaders. As aforementioned, the organization measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide, and it paints an alarming picture. Not one single country gets a perfect score and more than two-thirds score below 50, on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).
“Countries at the bottom need to adopt radical anti-corruption measures in favour of their people. Countries at the top of the index should make sure they don’t export corrupt practices to underdeveloped countries.”
José Ugaz, Chair, Transparency International
Denmark is ranked 1st with 92, and North Korea and Somalia are last with a score of 8. But obviously, the ranking need to be seen in the context in which we move. Hence we should compare Spain with Europe, EEUU and Canada.
Western Europe (excluding the countries that formed the Soviet Union) has an average of 66 with 16% of the countries scoring below 50.
Here we can distinguish between the countries that form the EU with an average of 64; and the countries which are not in the EU (Norway, Switzerland and Finland with 86, 86 and 79 respectively), climbing the average score to 66. With the rest of the countries we can form three big groups:
- A first group with the Nordic countries, Anglo-Saxons and Germans. This group averages 82, which means they are examples to follow.
- The second group encloses the Mediterranean countries, in which I include Portugal but exclude France (reason why, I’ll say after).This group has an average score of 55. Spain, with 60, is above the Mediterranean average.
I did not include France in either of the two previous groups because it is geographically between both. Its score is 69, it is also intermediate between the two groups.
- Finally, the third group would be the countries that, without being part of the Soviet Union, were under communist rule. This group has an average score of 54.
Out of these groups it seems that the mild climate and communism are two factors that foster corruption.
In Central America and the Antilles the average score is 45. Cuba is actually the one who’s done best out of the share-out (for its environment): 46.
And in South America, removing Chile and Uruguay, which both have 73, the average is 32, with Venezuela at the bottom club with 19 and Argentina with 34.
Eastern Europe (Russia, countries that formed the Soviet Union and from the countries of former Yugoslavia, except Slovenia) average a score of 36, facing down the score board due to Russia with 27 and its daughter, Ukraine, with 26.
It seems that the statement of communism favoring corruption is confirmed.
Middle East and North Africa. This group is made up by Muslim countries except Israel, which scored 60. The notable countries in this group are the UAE and Qatar with 70 and 69. The remaining countries average 25, which does not leave the Islamic legal system in good place.
Central Asia (Asian countries from the USSR and Turkey) average a score of 28. Turkey improved the score slightly with 45 points. Since all these countries (except Turkey) come from the communist world, the communism-corruption trend is reaffirmed. My guess of why Turkey is not as bad as other Muslim countries is due to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who pushed Islam out of the State around 1923.
Rest of Asia and Oceania. We can form three groups here again:
- The first group, those countries with greater Western influence, which are, of course, Australia and New Zealand, and also Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. This group averaged a score of 72, which is extraordinarily good.
- The second group would be the rest, except Pakistan and Afghanistan. This group averages 33, terrible.
- Pakistan and Afghanistan have respectively 29 and 12.
I feel I should highlight the difference between the two Koreas, with 55 points the south one and 8 the north one. Not a bad historical experiment.
The index of the G-8 countries is 66, of which 25% of the countries are below 50. The index of the G-20 is 54, with 58% of the countries below 50. Sub-Saharan Africa averages a score of 33, and 92% of the countries have scores below 50.
In view of this, there are several things that seem obvious:
- Countries with a democratic regime and a capitalist economy are those that have less corruption.
- Countries that have suffered communism or populisms have high present corruption levels. Perhaps Cuba may be a moderate exception to this.
- Sharia, the Islamic legal system, with some exceptions, also appears to link to corruption.
You can download the Corruption Perceptions Index document by clicking on this link.
Obviously, none of the situation of corruption in Spain in relation to other countries comforts me. Spain should aim to be like Denmark. Well, be like Denmark but being Spain. Which I think is a contradiction of terms.
But let’s focus on corruption in Spain again. I support that, whatever the level of corruption today, there is no more corruption in Spain than there was 10, 15 or 20 years ago. What has happened, and I am glad that it has happened, is that the filter retaining all the shit of corruption has become much narrower. That is a good thing. It’s a warning: everything that goes down the pipe is going to be looked at very closely. It is part of the democratic learning. But like any medicine it has its side effects. And the side effect is that the stench of shit retained in the filter becomes unbearable.
That’s when the plungers come out promising that they will clean and relieve the situation and ensure that they will decrease the flow of corruption cast into pipes.
If you haven’t gotten the metaphor yet, the plungers are the new Spanish opposition parties aspiring to power. After these elections, we’ll see Spain’s true face. We already know how it’s been so far. We’ll now see if all these new preachers, a handful of people, react once they start to manage public affairs and start recruiting leading cadres to manage municipalities, autonomous regions, ministries… moving massive amounts of money. All it takes is a little temptation and a little push. A thousand euros out of tens, hundreds, thousands of millions is very little and barely noticeable right? We’ll eventually see if they’re up to what they preach.
The most difficult task is now up to them. The problem is not corruption itself. The problem is the system which doesn’t prevent corruption. People have to be changed, but the system has to be changed before. The difficult task isn’t changing thieves for decent people, it’s preventing decent people from becoming thieves.