Analysis of most recent data from World Bank aggregate indicator Control of Corruption shows that results of the anti-corruption global campaign have been disappointing in effectively curbing corruption in the world
In the last two decades, the issue of corruption has gained great prominence in the international development agenda, mainly as a result of increasing evidence of corruption’s detrimental effect on economic growth and other policy outcomes. Many programmes have been supported and implemented by international donors in virtually all regions of the globe, and in the meanwhile the budget dedicated to finance anti-corruption policies has increased manifold. Despite all of these efforts and resources, recent indicators of corruption reveal that results have been meagre in terms of substantially reducing corruption in the world.
This has been the conclusion of an analysis conducted by ERCAS’s research team and presented at the roundtable “The global state of corruption control: who succeeds, who fails and what can be done about it”, held at the Hertie School of Governance on 18 October 2012. ERCAS’s researchers scrutinised the evolution of data from the Worldwide Governance Indicator (WGI) Control of Corruption, published by the World Bank for the period 1996-2011. Our analysis took into consideration data from 196 countries, and found that for the vast majority of them the scenario is of stagnation in control of corruption. Only 21 countries showed statistically significant improvement over the past 15 years, and 27 countries significantly regressed. In a regional perspective, some positive trends were also identified: the region with strongest positive development in this time-series was Central Europe and the Balkans, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean. On the other hand, Middle East and North Africa, together with Asia and the Pacific, have on average worsened.
The study also examined the trends for distinct groups of countries based on income level and democracy status. In both cases, the picture is rather gloomy. For all four income groups (low, low-middle, upper-middle and high), the average in the control of corruption indicator has declined since 1996, with a steeper deterioration in the case of upper-middle income countries. When contrasted with the significant increase in the number of countries in the top two income categories, these results suggest that countries are becoming richer much faster than they are catching up with good governance standards. In the analysis for countries at different democracy levels, based on the classification by US-based NGO Freedom House, all three groups of countries (free, partially free and not free) show on average slight deterioration in control of corruption.
These results were discussed at the roundtable by international scholars Prof. Claus Offe (Hertie School of Governance), Prof. Bo Rothstein (Quality of Government Institute, University of Gothenburg), and Prof. Paul Heywood (University of Nottingham), and Transparency International’s Programme Director Dieter Zinnbauer. They highlighted the importance of having aggregate indicators of corruption that provide for general assessments and comparisons of the level of corruption in a large number of countries, but also argued for the need of improved indicators that can paint a more accurate picture in the case of individual countries. Moreover, Prof. Rothstein argued that this pessimistic scenario reflects the results (or lack thereof) of anti-corruption policies based on a misconception of where the problem of corruption truly lies, especially in the case of societies afflicted by widespread corruption.
The analysis produced by ERCAS is part of the research work conducted within the scope of project ANTICORRP and will set the background for global and regional trends reports to be published in early 2013, and for the selection of countries that will be examined in case-studies to be conducted in the next phases of the project.