Patterns grouping CPI countries

By Len Cook
TINZ Member CPI Assessment

Transparency International drew attention to the importance of vigilance for countries who consistently score on or near the top of the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) with the recent release of the latest index. This was done by reminding us of the recent significant falls in the CPI for Australia, Canada and the USA.

Transparency International also points out the limits to the CPI itself. TI notes that “As a measure of public sector corruption, the CPI does not capture issues related to financial secrecy and money laundering, or the role of the private sector in allowing the corrupt to safely hide and enjoy the proceeds of their crimes.

The CPI is a globally comprehensive measure through its near universal coverage. However, international comparisons bring limitations in local and regional specificity.

This analysis considers countries that can give insight about pressures New Zealand might face in the future. This includes the countries who are either one of New Zealand’s top 25 trading partners or are small industrialised democracies like New Zealand.

Three large South American states are also included.

The key findings are:

  1. Countries fall tightly into groups when they have been classified by their size, political system.
  2. Eight small-industrialised democracies consisting of the four Scandinavian countries along with the Netherlands, Switzerland, Singapore and New Zealand are consistently in the lead, every year.        

  1. Another distinct stable block of countries below the eight small industrialised democracies are four large federal states (Canada, Germany, Australia and Belgium).    

The countries which do very well consistently but are not in these two groups are a somewhat eclectic mix.

  1. There are three large federal states whose CPI values have been below the four leading federal states over the whole decade (USA, Spain and Italy). Their path over that ten-year period has varied more as well.    
  2. As centralised states, UK, Japan and France are similar to the stable block of federal states in the way they have varied little around a long-term average.

  1. For medium sized states, the top group has had the same membership over the whole decade (UAE, Taiwan, Chile, Portugal and Israel), albeit with lower CPI values and higher variation around the decade average.    

Overall, the leading small industrialised countries have not only been the leading eight states over the whole of the past decade, but they are the countries which have shown the most stability and least variation over the decade in their CPI values.

Not only do larger states have lower CPI values, but they also show more year to year variation in values. In all four groups of countries, individual countries tended to remain clustered with the same countries over the whole decade.

It may be that the time has come for developing a more exacting second stage process to these assessments as a means of discriminating between different groups of countries whose results over the past decade are consistently close, given not only the stability of the results of many countries, but more significantly the consistency with which countries have grouped together over the decade.

Transparency International has yet again drawn attention to investigations related to the Pandora papers which showed that foreign business people and politicians facing corruption charges in their own countries exploited the loose New Zealand trust structure, opening 88 trusts to obscure their identities when executing financial transactions.

The Corruptions Perception Index provides a common international spotlight across the globe. The robustness in the long-term trends in country analysis, the value, ranking and variation of country values suggest that more specific spotlights might have relevance in the future in refining comparisons between countries.

As the recent public outcry over government proposals to scrap the role of Children’s Commissioner highlights, monitoring information needs to exist alongside having someone charged with telling the public what it means.

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