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Shruti J. Shah
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The 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index

Transparency International released its 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) today, suggesting that levels of bribery, abuse of power, and secret dealings are still perceived to be very high in most countries.

The index scores 176 countries and territories based on perceived levels of public sector corruption based on perspectives of business people and country experts.  It is a composite index — a combination of surveys and assessments of corruption, collected by a variety of reputable institutions. It uses data from international surveys that look at factors such as accountability of national and local governments, effective enforcement of anti-corruption laws, access to government information and abuse of government ethics and conflict of interest rules.

Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, and Sweden top the list of countries in this year’s CPI. No surprise that Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia are at the bottom of the list.

Two thirds of the countries ranked in the 2012 index score below 50 on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean) implying that levels of bribery and corruption are still very high.

Among the emerging economies, Brazil scores 43 with a rank of 69; China scores 39 with a rank of 80; India and Russia score 36 and 28, with a rank of 94 and 133, respectively. The Arab spring countries also score poorly underscoring the need for comprehensive reform in those countries and that simple changes in leadership are not sufficient.

The United States ranks 19th, with a score of 74. This score is lower than many of its OECD partners such as Australia, Germany, Japan, and United Kingdom. The United States is also third in the Americas below Canada and Barbados.

This ranking while not terrible, still showcases that the U.S. has a lot of work to do to eliminate both corruption and the perception of it in this country. People in the U.S. are as concerned about corruption and transparency issues in state, local, and federal government institutions, and the political culture driven by special interest groups, as people in other countries. While the U.S. government has an impressive record of enforcing the foreign bribery laws, it needs to improve its focus on issues of domestic corruption.

Transparency International has updated the methodology used to construct the CPI this year. The scale has also been changed. It is now 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean), previously it was a scale from 0 to 10. The updated methodology will allow for year-over-year comparisons for all editions published from 2012 onward.

The 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index is here.


Shruti Shah is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog. She’s a Senior Policy Director at Transparency International-USA, responsible for the promotion of TI-USA’s anti-corruption law and regulation policy agenda.

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