Having Nordic countries consistently on top of the CPIs least corrupt countries for years, there must be something in this culture and tradition that make them highly regarded as having a clean and honest government. Based on the 2006 Corruption Perception Index, Finland and Iceland are the top two least corrupt countries while Haiti and Burma hailed as the two most corrupt countries in the world.
This paper aims to find the reasons why these countries were in their current position in the CPI by comparing their government system, culture and tradition. This paper also aims to find solid evidences that will prove that the culture of corruption is not a matter of effective and efficient policies but on the culture of strict implementation of such policies, the moral and ethical standards of the people and the collective concern of the people to their country.
A brief background of the 2006 CPI report is included in the first part of this paper. A separate section, discussing thoroughly the different elements which may contribute to each countrys culture of corruption is the main focus of this paper. Data from competent writers and qualified analysts were compared in order to make readers further understand the economic, political and social status of each country. A brief conclusion is also included, summarizing the main points of comparison between countries.
BACKGROUND ON CPIs 2006 RESULTS
In the 2006 Corruption Perception Index, Finland emerged on top as the least corrupt country in the world, scoring 9.6 out of the 10 clean score. Scoring equally are Iceland and New Zealand. In the CPI 2006 published by the Transparency International, Haiti turned out to be the most corrupt of the 163 countries involved in the survey scoring only 1.8 while slightly on top is Myanmar with 1.9 score. If we are to look into the previous CPI results, we can see that the top Finland and other Nordic countries, Iceland and New Zealand have been consistently on the five least corrupt countries. The question here is who or what makes a country the least or the most corrupt country in the world?
The CPI is a composite index which uses survey results from business people and country analysts as with their assessment and perception of corruption among public officials and political figures (J.G. Lambsdorff). This means that the CPI is considered as a competent and reliable material considering that it makes use of qualified people in assessing the existence of corruption. It utilizes different sets of polls relative to perception of corruption, had them compiled and analyzed before it came up with the figures published in the CPI. In 2006, Transparency International made use of 112 sets of polls and survey from independent bodies listed below:
Freedom House: Nations in Transit
Economist Intelligence Unit
United Nations Commission for Africa
World Economic Forum
World Markets Research Center (London)
Merchant International Group Limited (London)
Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (Hong Kong)
International Institute for Management and Development (Laussane)
Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (IDA and IBRD of World Bank)
It is also important to note that bribery among public officials and servants is one of the major factors considered by analysts as the major indicator of corruption. Political culture and political institutions determine the level of corruption (P. Tiihonen). It is therefore but fair enough to conclude that corruption begins when bribery is tolerated by anyone in the government or any public office.
To have a deeper understanding of corruption, we will try to compare two of the most corrupt countries in the world with that of the two least corrupt countries using different areas and aspects. By doing so, we will be able to assess what factors make Finland and Icelands government clean and the factors that brought Haiti and Myanmar on top of the list of the most corrupt countries.
ELEMENTS THAT MAKE A COUNTRY CLEAN OR CORRUPT
Government and Political System
Finland has the culture of good governance. Based on the political structure of Finland, we can say that it has one of the best, if not the best system of government. First, Finland is a country that does not recognize social class. This is what they referred to as Egalitarian Society where everyone, regardless of social status is given equal opportunity to avail of the services of the government and to be of service to the people (Tiihonen).
Education is compulsory, women are given the full rights for suffrage and political participation as candidates, pension is provided for all citizens who reached 65 years old, healthcare services are free for everyone and education is free from basic to higher education. If all people are able to experience this kind of welfare in their country, it would be far from their means of finding comfort to bribe and accept bribe.
Nordic countries like Finland and Iceland live up to their political culture of transparency and corruption free society2. Considering the legal framework of Finland, one can immediately conclude that their government is serious with combating corruption as bribery, which includes both giving and accepting bribe, is a criminal offense (Criminal Code: R1 101/19.12.89). For them money, jewelry, household, special or low interest loans, trips, honorary titles and recommendations are forms of bribes (J. Brady). Nordic countries also have the collective decision structure, wherein decisions are in the hands of a collegiate body making hard for bribery to be tolerated.
In complete contrast, Haiti is a country of faltering democratic institutions and unstable political situation making it the poorest country in the Americas5. Recent reports involved government officials in the issue of drug trafficking, particularly the Presidential Security Unit and the Palace Guard4. Reported incidents of violence against anti-government demonstrators, said to be demanding to better public services like water and highways, are clear indicators of the countrys political instability.
Growing counts of human rights violations and the Aristedes governments disrespect for the peoples freedom of expression are regarded by analysts as political humanitarian catastrophe (J. Regan). Another indicator of the countrys unclean government is the incident of credit union pyramid scheme involving banks which money allegedly came from drug money. It turned out later that the scheme is a scam where the government promised to pay depositors who lost $200 million dollars and so far has not yet been fulfilled6.
As with Myanmar, political instability is not too obvious as that of Haiti. A political observer, in his article entitled Magnificent, Troubled Myanmar the writer described the country as beautiful, tragic, natural, and chaotic place7. In his article, he made mention of the peoples fear of the government by strictly avoiding discussion or making comments about their government even by merely consorting foreigners. In this situation, we can say that freedom and civil liberty is not honored by the government of Myanmar.
As with corruption, the author stressed the severely low income of the people of the country, with as low as half a dollar per day for most citizens. Considering their 883% literacy rate, this is a tragic economic situation. Based on this situation alone, corruption, especially bribery is highly expected. In fact, Myanmars public servants have negative real earnings (M. Maung). According to Maung, the iniquities in Burma today are driving its people into corruption. Such iniquities include: 9the growing power and wealth of the military rulers at the expense of impoverished masses, the sub-human conditions and plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced refugees stranded along Burmas borders.
Ethical and Moral Standards
In Nordic countries like Finland and Iceland, to be a public servant means to of real service to the public. Civil servants in these countries take pride of being a member of a generally honest government. For Finnish society, having a good name means a lot so they really do their best to avoid being accused of any malpractice especially that of related to dishonesty (P. Tiihonen).
The Finnish society also maintained their administrative culture of creating efficient civil servants by reserving senior civil service post to lawyers or at least those who earned degrees in law10. The government of Finland also gives its civil servants the responsibility for every decision and action they make. They are left independent in their tasks and do their individual duties with the least supervisory intervention. This is the reason why Finnish government employs highly-educated individuals in the civil service posts11.
Highly in contrast is the situation in the Burmese civil society. In a country as poor as Burma, to accept bribe is a matter of practicality. Bribery is normal in their everyday life where even the service of a lineman needs bribe. Accepting bribe for them is of being resourceful7. Like the people of Burma, Haiti citizens are evidently of low morale since most of them do not take courage to express their dislike and frustrations to their government. The continuing reports of chaos and demonstrations of few brave citizens are indications that these people resort to violence just to seek for the governments attention.
Quality of Life
Finland is a moral and welfare society where almost everyone enjoys a comfortable life. With free education, pension, health care benefits and honest and dedicated civil servants, I would say that Finnish people might have been the luckiest people in the world. They enjoy their civil rights and political freedoms especially in participating in public issues. For them, everything that concerns the public must be open to all citizens.
This means that they are all given the right to question any government policy or decision. Even diaries and records concerning public transactions are literally open to everybody2. Finland also takes pride of their culture of being environment friendly. For them, taking care of their natural resources are powerful means of maintaining their economic edge. As evidence Finland still tops the Environmental Sustainability Index along with Norway, Canada and Sweden11.
Considering violence in Haiti and the severe poverty in Burma, it is evident that their citizens are far from enjoying a good quality of life. Political instability, rampant and open bribery, environmental degradation and disrespect of individual freedom are the frustrating realities of life of the people of Haiti and Burma. With widespread unemployment and a negative real wage for most people, Burma is a picture of a real poor country whose government does not seem to care for its people.
By comparing the two least corrupt and two most corrupt countries in the world, based on the 2006 Corruption Perception Index, we were able to have an idea of how these countries differ on several areas. In our analysis of such areas we were able to draw some information that relates to their system of government and their philosophies which somehow define their stand in the issue of corruption. To summarize the major points of comparison, Nordic countries like Finland and Iceland have the following philosophies for a corruption-free society:
In contrast, this paper have presented the proofs of Haiti and Burmas political instability, severe poverty, absence of political and civil rights and the governments lack of concern for its people as causes and at the same time indicators of their corrupt government. By comparing the political and economic situations of the four countries, we were able to find out that corruption is not a matter of policy and laws but the strict implementation of it. Also, that poverty is not an indicator of corruption but a reflection of it. Making Finland as a perfect example, the world must make considerable efforts in implementing its laws and begin to nurture an honest society starting at the public administration.
1Transparency International.Corruptions Perception Index 2006. Retrieved on July 14, 2007 from http://www.transparency.org/publications/gcr/download_gcr#19
2Nordics Least Corrupted Nations in the World Retrieved on July 14, 2007 from http://www.scandinavica.com/culture/society/corruption.htm
4Jamaica Still Leading Caribbean Drug RouteCNN News. March 01, 2003. Retrieved on July 14, 2007 from http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/americas/03/01/drugs.caribbean.reut/index.html
5Haiti Tops World Corruption Table BBC News. November 06, 2006. Retrieved on July 14, 2007 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6120522.stm
6Aid To Haiti is Unfrozen, but Corruption and Chaos Remain Retrieved on July 14, 2007 from http://www.allbusiness.com/central-america/289066-1.html?yahss=114-2974554-289066
7Magnificent, Troubled Myanmar Retrieved on July 14, 2007 from http://www.vagabonding.com/travelogue/000038.html
8Myanmar Retrieved on July 14, 2007 from http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107808.html
9Maung, Maya. The State of Burmese Economy under Military Management Retrieved on July 14, 2007 from http://www.ibiblio.org/obl/docs/HRDU%201995/The%20state%20of%20Burmese%20Economy.htm
10Brady, Joe. Corruption-Nearly None at All Retrieved on July 14, 2007 from http://virtual.finland.fi/netcomm/news/showarticle.asp?intNWSAID=25892
11Tiihonen, Paula. Good Governance and Corruption in Finland Retrieved on July 14 2007 from http://virtual.finland.fi/netcomm/news/showarticle.asp?intNWSAID=25891
Lambsdorff, Johann Graf. The Corruptions Perceptions Index 2006. Pages 324-330
Lavers ,Tom. The Global Corruption Barometer pg. 13
Finland Ranks as Least Corrupt CNN News. October 08, 2003. Retrieved on July 14 2007 from http://www.cnn.com/2003/BUSINESS/10/08/corruption.index/index.html