The Corruption Perception Index Rant that Circled the Globe? class=

The Corruption Perception Index Rant that Circled the Globe?

Doug Hadden, VP Products

Alex Cobham, a Research Fellow at The Center for Global Development went on a bit of twitter rant this morning about the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) from Transparency International. We follow Alex on Twitter, so it was very interesting to read his perspective over my morning tea. I thought that it would be a good idea to “storify” it – and it has been by Tom Murphy who we also follow (embedded below).

Alex points out some of the problems that can arrise with the CPI. I don’t think that these are “edge case” problems. But, CPI is not a useless index. My views are:

  • It is difficult to impossible to measure corruption objectively in any country because there are so many avenues from petty bribes to traffic cops to systemic capture of wealth by corrupt dictators
  • Perception is a proxy for corruption and is a reasonable indicator that there have may have been improvements in a country when the CPI improves but it is probable that cultural and legal norms are different among countries making comparison through CPI rather crude – so it’s best to consider all measurements where the World Governance Index of Control of Corruption is a reasonable aggregate metric (but with problems) 
  • My sense, based on recent protests in Brazil, Bulgaria and Turkey is that corruption tolerance is changing and so the perception may show an increase in perceived corruption when there has been no change
  • I agree with Alex that the CPI gets are too much press relative to other indicators of corruption, transparency and accountability – in a sense, the communications acumen by TI has created a bit of a monster that feeds stereotypes that corruption is primarily a developing world problem (without looking at the “supply side” or considering the impact of “legal” campaign financing in some developed countries.
  • The move towards more government transparency including budget, aid and revenue will provide more effective information about actual corruption
  • Countries that improve transparency seem to be rewarded with improved CPI – although Professor Matt Andrews might call this “signalling” reform, it seems to me that improved CPI is a reform signpost where governments that improve standing ought to be congratulated.