Measuring Bribery And Global Corruption

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Transparency International has released its Global Corruption Barometer for 2013, looking at the incidence and perception of corruption around the world.

In its most shocking results, the survey asked more than 114,000 people in 95 countries whether they had paid a bribe to a public servant (bureaucrat, police officer, etc.) in the past year. One in four said yes. Of course the percentage varied widely from country to country, with Finland, Denmark, Australia and Japan at only 1 percent and Sierra Leone coming out at 84 percent. Several populous countries such as China and Russia were not included in the survey.

Some of the results are unsettling. Seven percent of U.S. residents surveyed reported paying a bribe in the past year, and many highly touristed countries have high incidents of bribery. In India, 54 percent of those polled reported paying a bribe. The figure is 22 percent in Greece, 33 percent for Mexico, and 70 percent for Kenya.

Tourists are sheltered from much of this since they don’t deal with most bureaucracy. They’re not trying to open a business or get a land line hooked up, for instance. Sad to say, bribery is the only way to get these things done quickly in many countries.

Tourists do get asked for bribes, however. Personally, I’ve been asked for bribes on many occasions. As far as I can remember I’ve only paid bribes in Egypt, where I joined the ranks of 36 percent of Egyptians and paid a little baksheesh. I did it to get access to closed areas of ancient sites, and got the distinct impression that another bribe would have allowed me to take a few souvenirs home. That’s something I wouldn’t do. “Take only pictures, leave only footprints” applies to ancient temples too. I’ve heard many stories from other travelers of bribery to speed up visa applications or get into closed sites.

The fact that the incidence of bribery in the United States is so high for an established democracy didn’t come as a complete surprise. A friend of mine who used to organize block parties in Arizona regularly paid bribes to the city police in order not to get shut down for breaking the noise ordinance.

The BBC has posted an interesting interactive map from the data.

Have you ever paid a bribe while traveling? Take the poll, and share the dirty details in the comments section!


Ten most corrupt countries of the world

You spend every holiday weekend annoyed that you can’t talk your way out of a speeding ticket. If only there were some way out of that predicament … aside from taking your lead foot off the gas, right? You may be out of luck on the New Jersey Turnpike, but there are plenty of places in the world where money talks, according to a new study by Transparency International. So, if you tend to disregard local laws and customs, you may want to pick one of the 10 countries below for your next vacation.

WARNING: You may need to bring a bit of fire power for some of these destinations.

1. Somalia:
Is this even a country? It has no real government to speak of, not to mention a history of piracy, mob violence, warlord brutality and kidnapping. So, chew a little khat to take the edge off.

The Good News: You can’t really break any laws where there aren’t any.

2. Myanmar: Okay, the human rights issue here is pretty severe, and the military regime is known for being among the most repressive and abusive in the world. So, don’t complain about the thread-count in your hotel.

The Good News: There’s plenty of wildlife to enjoy as a result of slow economic growth. A bleak financial outlook is good for the environment!

%Gallery-106020%3. Afghanistan: Ummmm, there’s a war going on there – you may remember that. So, you’re dealing more with warlords than conventional law enforcement officials. This takes some of the predictability out of your mischief, and it does amp the risk up a bit.

The Good News: There are several options for civilian flights. Also, fishing is fine, but you can’t use hand grenades.

4. Iraq: Again with the war … The easiest way to get there is to wear a uniform, but that will make bribing your way out of trouble far more difficult.

The Good News: Prostitutes may not be in abundance, but if you have an itch in Baghdad, you’ll probably find someone to help you scratch it.

5. Uzbekistan: The CIA describes the government as “authoritarian presidential rule.” Is there really anything else you need to know? Yes, there is: Uzbekistan has a nasty human trafficking problem.

The Good News: Uzbekistan’s currency is the Ubekistani soum – that’s what you’ll use to bribe your way out of trouble.

6. Turkmenistan: Uzbekistan’s neighbor is no prize, either. Instead of trading in skin, though, Turkmenistan prefers drugs. It’s described in the CIA World Factbook as a “transit country for Afghan narcotics bound for Russia and Western European markets.”

The Good News: If you’re in the heroin business, this is a crucial stop in your supply chain. If you’re not, well, there isn’t a whole lot of reason to care about the place.

7. Sudan: The global financial crisis of 2008 actually affected this country. Until then, money was flowing in just as fast as oil could flow out. Then, economies crumbled around the world, which dealt a nasty blow to the country.

The Good News: There’s at least one form of equal rights in Sudan: both men and women can be drafted into military service.

8. Chad: Why is Chad so corrupt? Well, this may have something to do with the human trafficking problem, which the country “is not making any significant efforts” to address. Rebel groups in the country add to the likelihood for mayhem.

The Good News: Chad ranks 190 worldwide in terms of GDP, which means your bribe dollars will go much further than in more developed nations.

9. Burundi: A dispute with Rwanda over sections of the border they share has resulted in various conflicts and a spirit of lawlessness that will make your own nefarious plans pale in comparison.

The Good News: Though landlocked, there is probably some great real estate alongside Lake Tanganyika.

10. Equatorial Guinea: Any country that has failed to try to combat human trafficking is probably a top spot for corruption, so it isn’t surprising that Equatorial Guinea made the top 10.

The Good News: Government officials and their families own most of the businesses in the country, so any broad complaints can be addressed by a handful of people.

[photo by The U.S. Army via Flickr]

Is a zero-rupee note the key to stopping bribery in India?

If you’ve ever traveled to Southeast Asia or the Middle East, you’re probably accustomed to having to “grease the wheels” a little bit if you expect help from local officials. Known as “baksheesh” in the Middle East, these small tips (okay, bribes) are common throughout much of the world for anyone looking to park a car, avoid a traffic ticket, move to the head of a line, or awaken a sleeping bureaucrat.

Although for many travelers baksheesh is more a novelty than a nuisance– probably because of their limited exposure to it– for many locals baksheesh is a frustrating and costly part of daily life. So how to stop the bribery and corruption? An Indian physics professor thinks he has the answer: Shame.

Professor Satindar Mohan Bhagat, now a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, came up with the idea of a “zero-rupee note” after growing tired of the endless demands for bribes on trips back to his native India.

According to one article, “The notes, printed and distributed by a good-government organization called 5th Pillar, include the phrase that the bearer ‘promises to neither accept nor give a bribe.'” Citizens who are solicited for a “tip” are supposed to give the zero-rupee notes to bribe-seeking officials in the hope of shaming them into withdrawing their request.

Perhaps surprisingly, this technique has been already successful in hundreds of cases:

In one instance, a corrupt bureaucrat apologized and returned money he had previously extorted from a village to connect it to the electrical grid. In another, an official who had just asked for “tea money” from an elderly woman stood up, offered his seat to her, brought her a real cup of tea, and then approved the loan she needed for her granddaughter to go to college.

Whole thing here.

The land of badly behaving Buddhists

Cambodia’s dictator for life prime minister, Hun Sen, recently appealed to the country’s Buddhist clergy, telling them to clean up their act. The PM told a convention of top religious leaders that the actions and poor judgment of individual monks has given the whole religion a black eye.

He cited several situations including monks accepting roles as dancers in a music video and an abbot using offerings of money to buy himself a new car. Also, disputes between monks and laypeople are on the rise, according to an independent social analyst.

Hun Sen concluded his address to the holy people by saying “These are individual monks making problems. Citizens should not consider it an issue of the whole religion, but equally, we must not be careless about this issue.”

Buddhist monks have long been revered in Cambodia. Many have become involved in various forms of social work. However, it seems that the recent economic development has affected the religious world as much as the general public.

[via Phnom Penh Post]

Can new leader save Thailand?

The King of Thailand, who somehow manages to stay above the country’s constant political woes, has official accepted former opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva as the new prime minister. He is the 3rd man to hold the post in the past 12 weeks.

Abhisit was formerly the opposition leader in parliament. He brings youth (he’s only 44) and a reputation for honesty to the country’s top job. Like the Illinois governor’s office, corruption is almost expected from Thailand’s leadership. Abhisit’s perceived incorruptibility might be just what the country needs to start trusting its governing body again.

What does this new political era mean for Thailand’s massive tourism industry? Nothing yet. Until the rift between rival political parties and their supporters is mended, more events like the occupation of Suvarnabhumi Airport are entirely possible. The infrastructure is still in place, but until the unpredictable political climate calms down, it would be hard to expect tourists to flock back to Thailand’s beaches and shopping venues.

[via BBC]