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!