T N Ninan: Unhappy pairings

By : T N Ninan
Last Updated: Fri, Dec 07, 2012 21:02 hrs

pWhich countries in the world are the least corrupt according to Transparency International&rsquos TI latest Corruption Perceptions Index Denmark Finland New Zealand Sweden Singapore and Switzerland Their average per capita income 55000 And which are the most corrupt the word is applied only to the public sector &mdash so essentially government corruption Somalia North Korea Afghanistan Sudan and Myanmar Their average per capita income Less than 1000 The richest countries are also the cleanest while the poorest are perceived as the most corrupt The question begs itself do corruption levels mirror per capita income levels just as the United Nations&rsquo human development index does So it would seem from a closer look at TI&rsquos latest list of 174 countries ranked using information from 13 different international data sourcesppTake India TI ranks it 94th out of 174 countries But of the 93 countries that have a better corruption ranking as many as 86 also do better on per capita income Only seven countries that are poorer than India manage to do better on corruption Six of them interestingly are in Africa Rwanda Lesotho Liberia Zambia Malawi and Burkina Faso so parts of that continent are doing some things better than us in India Look then at the South Asia corruption scores and the picture is generally consistent corruption perceptions usually improve as incomes rise Bhutan has the second highest per capita income 2053 and also the best corruption rank 33 That is followed by Sri Lanka 2880 and rank of 79 and then India 1511 and corruption rank of 94 The poorer neighbours Pakistan Bangladesh Nepal also do worse on corruption ranking between 139 and 144 The moral in the numbers seems to be clear get rich and your country is also likely to become clean or at least cleanerppThis is of course a dangerously deterministic position to adopt because a convenient conclusion would be that there is little that can be done about corruption when a country is poor It would give a handle to a government to say that corruption should be tolerated Indira Gandhi once dismissed concern about growing corruption by saying that it was a &ldquoglobal phenomenon&rdquo she might have said more accurately that it was a &ldquoThird World&rdquo phenomenon Manmohan Singh in turn said recently that rapid growth provides new opportunities for corruption and there may well be a connection if one looks at examples like India and China both have seen their absolute corruption scores deteriorate over the past decade of rapid growth while Indonesia was a byword for corruption in its go-go years till 1997 One could also look at late-19th century United States when growth rates peaked along with the rise of the robber baronsppBut even if there is correlation between rapid growth and corruption when does the chain snap &mdash as it must since only non-corrupt countries stay long enough on the growth curve to eventually become rich Some theorise that the correlation depends on the nature of corruption &mdash some kinds facilitate growth as in South Korea others hinder it Russia has plenty of oligarchs and is the poorest performing Brics country Alternatively corruption is like inequality &mdash it rises along with income growth for a while then drops off as income continues to grow The danger would be if the level of corruption crosses a tipping point the country then descends into a kleptocracy and never makes it up the income charts Super-corrupt Indonesia after more than a decade of 8-9 per cent annual growth imploded in 1997 that set back per capita income by a whole decade and it then took another decade or so to get back to the 1997 level Don&rsquot say you weren&rsquot warnedp

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