The most well known index of corruption is Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. However, as I have frequently pointed out, it has a lot of problems. The biggest one lies in its very name – perceptions are not necessarily equal to reality, even – or especially – if they come from a narrow class of self-appointed political and economic “experts” whom Transparency International queries when compiling the CPI.
In an attempt to remedy this, back in 2011 I compiled the Corruption Realities Index 2010 on the basis of objective measures of corruption such as the percentage of people who said they had paid a bribe in the past year, the results of blind reviews of national laws and regulations on corruption, and measures of budget transparency. Some countries, such as Italy (more corrupt than Saudi Arabia according to the CPI) and Russia (more corrupt than Zimbabwe according to the CPI) considerably improved their standings in the CRI relative to the CPI.
- Judicial Independence
- Budget Transparency
- Administrative Burden
- Trade Openness
- Freedom of the Press
The first two factors seem to be the two that have the most to do directly with corruption. The second two are more incidental, though it is true that fewer regulations c eteris paribus results in lower corruption. Although one can see how e-citizenship is an extension of deregulation, in practice the particular measures used for it – such as the number of Facebook users as a percentage of the population (!) – is actually of highly questionable value. What are you going to do, report corruption on Facebook? And what if you use Twitter or Vkontakte instead? Although in principle Freedom of the Press should be a powerful tool in the battle of corruption, ratings are drawn from Freedom House which is just as subjective as the CPI (i.e., completely) and even more politicized, which makes this particular subcomponent totally useless.
That said, the iPi, unlike the CPI, is based on significantly more objective/data-based measures, and unsurprisingly, both Italy and Russia (as I intuited) are some of the biggest relative improvers. This goes to support my longstanding arguments that in terms of corruption although Russia is an underperformer within Europe it is also not particularly bad at a global level, being around the average for middle-income countries, transition countries, and fellow BRICS countries, and nowhere near the “Zaire with Snow” outlier it is frequently portrayed as in the Western media.
China does considerably worse here on the iPi than the CPI. As an authoritarian country with a lot of economic regulations and telephone justice that stands to reason, though one might think that having the death penalty on the books constitutes a considerably greater “capacity to control corruption” than the absence of Facebook. The incidence of bribery polls indicate that low-level corruption in China is now actually quite rare for a country at its developmental level.