How will corruption evolve in 2024?

REVIEWING THE PAST TO FORECAST THE FUTURE

Every year on December 9 the world celebrates International Anticorruption Day. This is the annual moment to review the state of global corruption, as well as the best opportunity to reflect on the poverty of our review tools. It has always been a challenge to measure corruption, but to measure corruption across time is the ultimate challenge. Another year of struggle against corruption is coming to a pass. Are we nearer to the target? Has any country graduated to good governance, in the ‘green’ area of the upper third of the global ranking? Has any country already in that area experienced some backsliding? Are some countries closer to reaping the benefits of many years of reforms or, on the contrary, does the world risk losing more countries to state capture?

As perception indicators are not optimal for assessing change from one year to another, ERCAS devised a methodology to both capture change – and lack of it- and explain it. A snapshot for 2023 can be found as the Index of Public Integrity (IPI), based on scientifically validated indicators, which proxy the causes (enablers and disablers) of corruption. Then, as indicators always have a certain time lag, the trend analysis is completed with an analysis of recent facts. All the data can be found on www.corruptionrisk.org. Except for the countries presented in the front table, all the others are forecast to be stationary. The six indicators used for the IPI 2023 are:

 

Administrative transparency De facto transparency of public contracts, business register, land cadaster and auditor general reports, as reported step by step and link by link in the T-index.
Online services The extent to which governments offer online services, as featured in the UN Survey. (Replaced Administrative burden based on the World Bank Doing Business)
Budget transparency The extent to which budget proposals and previous-year expenditures are and have been made public, using a fraction of the Open Budget Index survey.
Judicial independence The extent to which the judiciary is autonomous from private interest (including by government officials) as in the Global Competitiveness Report survey by the World Economic Forum
(Digital citizenship)
E-citizenship
Household broadband subscriptions and Facebook users per country measure the capacity of civil society
Freedom of the press Yearly indicator including economic and physical pressure on media

 

As Facebook users’ data, which is a component of the e-citizens, changes coverage across years, we use only Internet household connections to measure e-citizens for the forecast. As administrative transparency is a new indicator, with direct observations of every country’s online transparency, it is also not included in the forecast trends monitoring (just the IPI), but as an additional weight step. The step-by-step methodology can be read here.

Our IPI and forecast methodology thus provide three pictures:

1.   A snapshot- How the world is in the 2022-2023 IPI and why. Users can read the IPI by country and compare it against its region and income group on every component.

2.   A motion picture based on a time series- how countries changed over the past ten years and where they would likely be next year.

3.   A diagnosis – Open the forecast country page to see the individual trends, diagnosis and explicit legend to understand where the country is on corruption risk, what it could do to improve, and where it will be next year.

 

 

THE ANALYSIS

  • Every year, state capture is subverted by the silent but unstoppable rise of global digital citizenship, which signifies aggregate demand for good governance, understood as fair and equal treatment by a government for its subjects, with no privileged groups or citizens, enjoying a different status due to connections to the government — or bribes. Almost in every country of the world, the number of e-citizens is on the rise.
  • Corruption fights back, even against the most successful judicial crackdowns, with former successful countries losing battles against impunity in Latin America, Africa and the Balkans. Anti-privilege reforms promoting ethical universalism, and not high-profile trials, thus offer the most sustainable path to good governance, as success stories prove.
  • An unprecedented number of insurgencies, coups and wars are taking state capture to the next violent stage and threaten what have been incipient promising trends in  have also been under threat but give signs of resilience and recovery.
  • As Estonia moved up and the United States down, Estonia is now ahead of the United States as number 5 in the IPI ranking (1-10, with 10 best integrity in the IPI), after Denmark, Norway, Finland and New Zealand, which lead the top.
  • Digital trends (Internet and social media connected citizens, online services) are all steadily rising, while political indicators (judicial independence, freedom of the press) are doing badly in most of the world and worsening. The political trends cancel out the positive tech trends, and growing demand in the form of civil society combined with increased repression of the press and civil society is likely to lead to much instability wherever civil society reaches some critical mass – for instance, in the capital cities. The fall of captors in Sri Lanka may be followed by many others, but the success of the revolutionary path to good governance depends on the degree of institutionalization of political alternatives to follow. Not many political coalitions for good governance, unified by a single program on eliminating privilege and increasing transparency, exist around the world. If the good political society does not associate with a clear purposive movement, populists will remain what they have been for a while now – the chief political winners due to discontent with corruption.
  • Unless the United States solves its leadership integrity problems and is back convincingly as the needed global anticorruption coalition leader, global standards will sink even lower in 2024, and global anticorruption will become just another tool of a new cold war, with accusations of political instrumentalization and double standards flourishing. A phase of global moral anarchy with few successful transformations might follow as countries increasingly realign on grounds other than public integrity reputation.

 

More on www.corruptionrisk.org

Direct queries to professors Alina Mungiu-Pippidi and Michael Johnston at mungiu-pippidi@againstcorruption.eu

 

Berlin-Roma-Bucharest, December 2023

 

European public accountability trends now updated!

The European Union is the absolute achiever on standards and benchmarks. Thousands exist and are strictly guarded by various enforcement agencies: some inspired anecdotes were furiously disputed over the Brexit divorce. Less spoken about are EU standards on public accountability, in spite of the bloc now having a Rule of Law (ROL) Report on the member states and monitoring processes for accession countries. There is a very simple reason for this: they do not exist as such. While we uphold a Europe that embraces ideals of rule of law and free of corruption as ideals for member states and aspiring countries, we do not actually have a standard way of achieving those, or clear European benchmarks. Finland and Denmark are quite unregulated on public accountability but extraordinarily transparent, and they lead in all good governance charts. Hungary and Poland have been backsliding on both rule of law and democracy but their legal arrangements are quite thick. In some areas, at least.

To understand how Europeans succeed in having transparent and accountable governments ERCAS has created as part of the EU-funded project DIGIWHIST a repository of legal data. We organized them as tools, described in detail as to coverage and instruments, and quantified – assigned a score for each extra provision, resulting in a higher score for countries with more comprehensive regulation. This is Europam.eu, an exceptional legal repository created in 2017. Today we update it at the level of 2020 data. You can find out there how countries are doing on freedom of information, oversight of assets and conflicts of interest of officials, party funding, and public procurement, as well compare each country against the rest of Europe and understand what is the mechanism which enables public accountability – or not.

Despite unprecedented discussion on rule of law in the European space and neighborhood, we found few changes since 2017. All the data is available at Europam.eu, and we present here only two chapters.

 

On public procurement, the average remained roughly the same, from 63 points in 2017 to 62 points in 2020 (from a total of 100), but more jurisdictions declined than improved.

  • Previous best scorers Slovakia (2020: #1) and Hungary (2020: #5) remained in the top 5, but Czechia dropped 5 positions. Romania (2020: #2), Malta (2020: #3) and Bulgaria (2020: #4) complete the top 5;
  • Out of the 3 previous lowest scorers, only the Netherlands (2020: #32) remained in the bottom 5. Poland was the worst jurisdiction, having lost a few points. Other countries at the bottom – Georgia (2020: #34), Sweden (2020: #33), and Iceland (2020: #31) – did not see real variation from their previous points (around the 50 points-mark), which suggests that other countries doing better, rather than them doing worse, is the cause of their poorer performance;
  • Countries that declined: Belgium, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Serbia, Sweden, and the European Union as a whole – 14/35 jurisdictions;
  • Countries that improved: Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and the UK – 11/35 jurisdictions;
  • Countries that remained roughly the same: Armenia, Cyprus, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Switzerland – 10/35 jurisdictions.

 

On conflict of interest, the average improved slightly, from 40 points in 2017 to 44 points in 2020, and more jurisdictions improved than declined. This is good news for GRECO, which tirelessly promotes COI further restrictions in many countries.

  • Previous best scorers remained at the top – namely Latvia (2020: #3), Croatia (2020: #4), and Slovenia (2020: #5) – with Georgia improving significantly to get to the first spot and Serbia improving slightly (2020: #2);
  • Previous lowest scorers also remained at the bottom – namely Denmark (2020: #33) and the Netherlands (2020: #32) – with Finland (2020: #34) dropping significantly to get to the second-worst position and Belgium decreasing a few points to be the worst jurisdiction;
  • Countries that declined: Armenia, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, and Switzerland – 11/35 jurisdictions;
  • Countries that improved: Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, and the European Union as a whole – 16/35 jurisdictions;
  • Countries that remained roughly the same: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Latvia, Slovenia, and the UK – 8/35 jurisdictions.

 

To those who are surprised by these figures we just remind that laws and practices are poorly correlated when rule of law and corruption are concerned. Clearly, there is a great difference between high honesty countries and low honesty countries, with the latter regulating far more. But does more regulation increase public integrity, and which regulation? That is what we study next, and we invite you also to use the freely available Europam for your own analyses.

The Quality of Government and Public Administration

In 1999, Evans and Rauch showed a strong association between government effectiveness (quality of government)—particularly the presence of a Weberian-like bureaucracy, selected and promoted on merit alone and largely autonomous from private interests—and economic growth. In 1997 and the aftermath of the Washington Consensus controversial reforms the World Bank promoted this finding in its influential World Development Report 1997 as part of its broader paradigm on “institutional quality.” Twenty years of investment in state capacity followed, by means of foreign assistance supporting the quality of public administration as a prerequisite to development. However, most reviews found the results well under expectations. This is hardly surprising, seeing that Max Weber, credited as the first promoter of the importance of bureaucracy as both the end result and the tool of government rationalization in modern times, never took for granted the autonomy of the state apparatus from private interest. He clearly stated that the power using the apparatus is the one steering the bureaucracy itself. In fact, a review of empirical evidence shows that the quality of public administration is endogenous to the quality of government more broadly and therefore can hardly be a solution in problematic contexts. The autonomy of the state from private interest is one of the most difficult objectives to accomplish in the evolution of a state, and few states have managed in contemporary times to match the achievements of Denmark or Switzerland in the 19th century. Two countries, Estonia and Georgia, are exceptional in this regard, but their success argues for the primacy of politics rather than of administration.

Denmark

Denmark has historically been the first European country to reach control of corruption. Its judiciary and bureaucracy enjoy remarkable autonomy, and freedom of the press is superb. However, recent years have taken away some of the shine and have shown that the country is not immune to corruption risk and the oversight systems in both public and private sector are too weak. Denmark should introduce transparent conflict of interest and financial disclosures for officials and adopt stricter conflict of interest rules. An export oriented economy, it should enforce international anticorruption conventions for its companies operating overseas, from which opportunities for corruption arise.

Becoming Denmark: Historical Designs of Corruption Control

Why do some societies manage to control corruption so it manifests itself only occasionally, as an exception, while other societies do not and remain systemically corrupt? And is the superior performance of this first group of countries a result of what they do or of who they are? Most current anticorruption strategies presume the former, which is why institutions from developed and well-governed countries are currently being copied all around the world. At least on paper, there are few states left that are missing a constitutional court, some form of checks and balances, or an ombudsman (the number of countries with these elements grew from 47 in 1990, 100 in 2003 and 135 by 2008). Skeptics, on the other hand, endorse the latter view, believing in the cultural determinism of corruption and good governance. More recently, following the failure of the first generation of anticorruption reforms, a middle-ground position has begun to emerge: that the most relevant lessons lie not in what developed countries are currently doing to control corruption but rather in what they have done in thepast, when their societies more strongly resembled the conditions in today’s developing world (Andrews 2008). However, as this subject area is largely unknown to governance scholars and practitioners alike, it is difficult even to estimate the potential value of such historical lessons. I plan to address this gap by asking not how corruption is eradicated but rather how societies have built—over time—systems to protect their common resources from being spoiled by individuals or groups.