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Are rich countries the least corrupt?

August 29, 2007

Looking at Transparency International’s list of corrupt countries 2006, the most obvious thing that struck me was that the money you had mattered a lot when it came to the temptation to steal. I wondered about the exact relationship between income and corruption and decided I would try and find out. The attempts to co-relate the two factors are entirely my own, and done out of sheer curiosity. I am certainly not drawing any hard and fast conclusions on the basis of the relationship between the two.

From I got the per capita income of the ten least corrupt countries and tried to see how their ranking on this list matched their ranking in the other. The scores given by Transparency International for corruption are out 10 (a higher score means less corruption) and Nationmaster has provided the per capita income in dollars. (TI’s methods at arriving at the corruption rankings is given at the bottom of the post):

1. Finland is the least corrupt with a corruption index of 9.6. It has a per capita income of $23,480 and its income ranking is 14.

2. Iceland, the second least corrupt country has a corruption index of 9.6. Its per capita income is $27,001 and that makes its income ranking 7.

3. New Zealand, the third least corrupt country has a corruption index of 9.3. Its per capita income $12,391. and this makes it number 27 on the income ranking.

4. Denmark, the fourth least corrupt country has a corruption index of 9.5, and its per capita income is $29,992. This makes it 6th in the income ranking.

5. Singapore, the fifth least corrupt country, has a corruption index of 9.4 and its per capita income is $19,506. In the income list it stands at number 18.

6. Sweden, the sixth least corrupt country, has a corruption index of 9.2. Its per capita income is $25,024 and in this list it stands in the 8th position.

7. Switzerland, the seventh least corrupt country has a corruption index of 9.1. Its per capita income is $36,666 and well, its citizens are the richest in the world as its first on the income list.

8. Norway, the eight least corrupt country, has a corruption index of 8.8. Its per capita income is $34,788 and here it ranks 4th.

9. Australia, the ninth least corrupt country has a corruption index of 8.7. Its per capita income is $18,889 and it comes in at number 20 in the income list.

10. Netherlands, the tenth least corrupt country has a corruption index of 8.7 and its income per capita is $23,535. Its rank in the income list is 13.

India’s corruption index is 3.3 (its rank is 70 out of 163 countries listed in the corruption index) and its per capita income is $422. Its income rank is 127 (out of 171 countries) in this list.

The ten richest countries (highest per capita income) which are not the top ten least corrupt nations

Luxembourg’s citizens are the second richest in the world with a per capita income of $36,589. In the corruption index this small country has a score of 8.6 and comes in 11th in the list.

Japan is another rich country, its citizens the third richest in the world, with a per capita income of $35,469, but its corruption index is merely 7.7. It ranks 17th.

United States’ citizens are the fifth richest in the world with an income of $32,476 per capita, but the country comes in 20th on the corruption index with a score of 7.3

United Kingdom‘s per capita income is $24,351 and its citizens are the 9th richest in the world. Its rank in the corruption index is 11, with a score of 8.6.

Austria has a per capita income of $23,781, making its citizens the tenth richest in the world. It is at number 11 in the corruption index, with a score of 8.6, equal to the UK and Luxembourg.

Interestingly, India has improved its corruption ranking as compared to last year. Well, one factor could be rising incomes…we know that better law enforcement could not have played a part. I feel that if Singapore has so little corruption, their strict law enforcement is a big factor.

Also, the fact that the USA and Japan do not score very well in the corruption index, inspite of being rich nations, means that a lot of complex factors are at work. I am not sure I understand what.

Coming to the countries which score very badly, Transparency International officials have said that the most corrupt nations are those with “an extremely weak institutional setting”. So this means there is hope for India. As it says here:

But in a situation where institutions are well-founded and have been established for decades (as in India), the tackling of corruption cannot be kept confined to merely getting new people in top positions but will also have to include the functioning of the institutions as a whole. Clearly, this is a gigantic task which will need a lot of time (particularly in a democracy), not to speak of the fact that, in the first place, it may not be possible to find eligible “non-corrupt” people to do the cleansing.

Due to its institutions India has an advantage over countries like Haiti (corruption index 1.8), Sudan or Bangladesh (both with a corruption index of 2). Therefore while there is hope for the future, how we make these institutions work is up to us.

Note: (From the Transparency International site)
(The Corruption perceptions index (CPI) rates a country’s propensity to accept bribes according to the perceptions of business people, risk analysts, and the general public. The scores range from 10 (squeaky clean) to zero (highly corrupt). 5.5 is the number Transparency International considers the borderline figure distinguishing countries that do and do not have a serious corruption problem.

Related Reading: Corruption and Social Trust are linked
A panel’s recommendations to reduce corruption in India
Indians believe their judiciary to be corrupt

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45 Comments leave one →
  1. Meghna permalink
    August 29, 2007 1:46 pm

    I think this can mean that honesty is not ingrained in anyone. Circumstances that can make a person a chor.

  2. August 29, 2007 2:19 pm

    The discretionary powers given to our Babus make them corrupt. Rules have to be in black and white in order to improve our rating.

  3. August 29, 2007 2:27 pm

    Meghna, I think perhaps that very few people are intrinsically honest (those who will not steal however deprived they are) and also very few people are intrinsically dishonest (will steal however rich they are)…the majority lies somewhere inbetween!

    Prerna, yes, the controls are loose and rules vague! And when they know they aren’t going to get caught and punished, whats to stop them?

  4. August 29, 2007 2:38 pm

    I rather think it is the other way of looking at the issue. A free society, with rational and serious laws, is likely to reward honesty and excellence. The temptation to corruption is lower because of two factors:
    1. You are not that desperate to make some money, as you are well off like most others.
    2. You know that if you get caught, you will be in serious trouble, because the law is tough on criminals.
    Of course, cultural norms also make an impact, but this would be the main reasons, I think.

  5. B Chopra permalink
    August 29, 2007 3:18 pm

    Great piece of information and very interesting.

    Rising incomes is that lucky factor which is helping us a lot.. and It’s apparently tightly related factor to corruption but we are still far far away to see our non-corrupt administration and I think it’s mainly due to our “slow reforms” and almost no willingness to grow faster after the groundwork has been done. The tortoises did not overtake the hares.

    Long back.. Karnataka govt. had setup independent institution by name “Loka-Ayuktha” to control corruption.. and It performed really very very well initially.. and many corruption news were out with concrete n solid proof… But Govt. did not gave them powers to undertake further actions.. so the end result was below average.. My conclusion is – Independent monitory institution setting is damn good solution provided that they are given with Strong Powers and in-turn they also have been monitored in timely manner. But it is risky too politicians and bureaucrats…

  6. August 29, 2007 5:29 pm

    lol maybe i should try for some university in the swiss 🙂


    but why is there corruption in our country??

    because we try to hide things…i think that is shown in your last post also…i think it is time we become more open…i know people will say it goes against our country’s tradition but what are traditions,but mere ideas for the future to build upon?

    i think there is going to be a major change in India soon….a drastic change is going to happen,which will transform the country…

  7. Phantom permalink
    August 29, 2007 6:26 pm

    Look….at the end of the day….there are all the relevant laws in India…but they are not imposed. To soem extent, low leval corruption is a financial issue. The traffic constabble who is paid a measly 3000 rs per month HAS to supplement his income by way of minr traffic bribes, to provide for his family. That is where the west is different – literally every job earns an amount this commercially viable, and allws the worker to lead a decent standard fo life.

    It is not so much the low level corruption that is pillaging the country, it is the high level one, performed by the more powerful and influential government employees, bureaucrats and people in poitions of power. Their corruption is not arising out of a lack of food on their table….their corruption is an abuse of the system, that condones such activity, and a loose extremely ineffecient legal system that fails miserably to enforce the law. In a jungle, one has to learn to be an animal. I believe that in many elements of bureaucracy,if the incumbent is not willing to accept bribes and bend the rules for bribing business men and men of money who need those “favours” and bending of the rules…then inevitably, that incumbent finds that he will not stay in that position for long….as someone higher up in the hierarchy is bribed to get more “accomodating” bureaucrays in the chain of command. What is an honest person to do in such an environment????

  8. axinia permalink
    August 29, 2007 7:05 pm

    it is quite obvious that the rich countries have less corruption – but as my Russian friends say “it all depends on the amount of the bribe” – I personally know cases in Austria where authorities have been corrupt. – I myself was asked for a bribe to pay 500 Euros when I wanted my husband to get Austrian visa earlier (they really asked for it!!!) – by the Austrian visa authority!!!

    Definitely, counties like Russia or India are extremely corrupted. But I have a feeling, corruption has become such a part of culture, kind of collective consciousness – people really think it is ok.

    One I heard one Russian rich men saying: ” when you are rich, you have to share, and bribes are the part of it” He really did not see it as an evil!!

    One good book I can recommend on this topic:” Corruption : India’s Enemy Within”

  9. krenim permalink
    August 29, 2007 8:55 pm

    [ is not so much the low level corruption that is pillaging the country, it is the high level one, performed by the more powerful and influential government employees, bureaucrats and people in poitions of power]

    I think you have it the other way around.In absolute terms the west is more corrupt than you give us credit for 🙂 .There are something like 3 trillion dollars stashed away in switzerland.Besides do you really think political parties in the west are funded by MP’s salaries?

    The point is the man on the street couldn’t care less because he doesn’t face it every day.

    And please remember that here as well as in the third world black and white money aren’t there in two separate silos.For instance I give you $10mn to secure a contract,I classify it as “miscellaneous marketing expenses” in my books so technically its clean money but in your hands it is ill gotten wealth you in due course buy a BMW M5 with it but you buy it from a perfectly honest tax paying dealer .so it becomes clean once again….

    Graft and governance go together its just the degree of sophistication that differs between the third world and the first.The point is not to let this interfere with the quality and efficiency of services delivered by the state which in turn is a question of allocation of resources.

    And the TI report isn’t worth the paper its written on and the reason the first world appears much higher is because corporations are far more sophisticated in covering their tracks some of the headers to look at if you want to snoop around are:
    1.Marketing expenses
    2.Miscellaneous expenses
    3 Contributions to charities(actually front cos to get the cash tax free)
    4. Operational losses of foreign subsidaries(check the annexure 4R 🙂 )

    Even PwC can’t figure out whether the expenses under these headers are genuine or a cover
    I honestly don’t think the morons (I happen to know a few) at TI can figure it out.

  10. August 29, 2007 9:03 pm

    Yeah Rambodoc, good laws make all the difference. About cultural differences, well I don’t know. I am not sure that it has anything to do with an intrinsic cultural difference because I feel human beings are basically the same. Once something is rampant, it becomes accepted. Recently I read that if you are surrounded by fat people, the fatness itself becomes less shocking, more acceptable. So with corruption. Also take the USA and Japan. So culturally apart, but both are rich countries which have more corruption than they should. I just cannot find an explaination for that.

    Bharat, thanks. There is another thing I read in the newspapers recently, to combat corruption. Some NGO has started issuing currency notes which look like Rs 1000/- rupee notes but the amount is 0! They are telling people to give these notes when anyone asks for a bribe and from the instances given in the news report, it appears to have shamed some people. They did the work without the bribe.

    Vishesh, yes, more openness is what is going to shame the wrong-doers. I think our RTI Act is a great step forward in this direction.

    Phantom, the high level corruption is causing great damage for sure. Crores are being siphoned off. As you said, it is setting a poor example to those lower down. And no it’s not lack of food on the table, it’s pure greed. Unfortunately people are electing criminals or those with criminal tendencies to parliament. At times I think only such people can win an election as to win one you need lots of money to bribe and intimidate people.

    Axinia, thanks for the link. Will surely check up on it. That point you made about corruption being accepted is very apt. Here at least I think its accepted. The attitude is that everyone is doing it, so why not I.

  11. August 29, 2007 9:09 pm

    Krenim, what you said certainly made very interesting reading. I guess because the laws are more strict out there, they are more careful as to how they accept bribes. And yes, as the TI report is based on perceptions, these perception could be misguided. You are ofcourse speaking of the UK, where you live.
    I do believe that some countries in northwestern europe like denmark, finland etc are clean though.

  12. August 29, 2007 9:18 pm

    Well i think we need to turn to some other kind of system.Gandhiji said we weren’t ready after the Chauri-Chaura incident,and i think still we aren’t.We need to find a solution where for a period of time,the country is in good hands.Of course the major problem is that gundas and hitmen provide their services to the society too.If you can get the DVD of the tamil movie Shivaji do watch it…you should what kind of effect it has left on people…the movie talks about making all the black money white and using it to help the people.Though the cause seems noble,the idea propagated is incomplete and sending out a wrong message.The effects of this can be disastrous and unfortunately many don’t realise it.

  13. August 29, 2007 9:20 pm

    Vishesh, I have seen Shivaji, and even though I didn’t understand Tamil, I confess I enjoyed it. But yes, it was pure fantasy.
    About another kind of system, well, I think we are on the right path. There is no quick cure, only goondas can be a quick cure! Its going to take time, but with police and judiciary reforms things will start to improve. These are in the offing. A lot of people are clamouring for it. We too should raise our voice. As citizens it is our duty to do it. Just last week the supreme court overturned the states appeal not to go in for police reforms…things are happening Vishesh. its going to be slow, but it will be permanant.

  14. krenim permalink
    August 29, 2007 9:27 pm

    Not half as interesting as how these scandinavians fleece others.

    Heres there modus operandi they are the most generous ‘aid givers’ in the world.But their aid is more a cross subsidy for the rest of their economy for instance in Africa they send highly qualified consultants as part of their ‘aid’ who go on to recommend their products made in scandinavia they also pay the african ministers salaries so it is kind of like an official bribe so the loop is complete.You have luxury buses made in sweden plying on roads of starving african countries,now these buses have to be serviced and over the total life time the poor Africans have to pay much much more in spares and skilled mechanics being flown in from scandinavia than the cost of the buses ditto for tractors,power plants and a whole host of their produce.This they finance by selling their natural resources at throw away prices and still incur yet more debt.They also leech on other peoples aid money by having their consultant recommend their pharma cos medicines for aid relief etc.
    15% of scandinavian incomes are directly linked to this scam.
    And then they have the cheek to rate others more corrupt on them.

  15. August 29, 2007 9:32 pm

    Krenim. I enjoyed reading that. 🙂

  16. Phantom permalink
    August 29, 2007 9:55 pm

    There are various ways of masking a bribe. In developing and third world countries, it is more apparent, while in developed nations it is masked under the disguise of “unforseen expenses”, “entertainment budget” etc. However, when, in developing countries, the bureaucrats with power sipon off large chunks of funds that should really be deplyed for public use (infrastructure, food, health etc) or provide sanctions and permits to bribing businesses/corporates for them to carry out business activity that compromises the common man ins oem resepect…..who is suffering – it is the common man. I hardly think that paying a bribe of Rs 100 to a traffic cop is in the same league as the loss to the citizens when officials in the municipality award building permits to corrupt builders to allow the latter to demolish buildings, displace poor people, and land grab…or when a corrupt minister grabs a 1% cut of a huge chunk of public funding.

    Krenin – in first world – to- first world dealings…..bribes or “marketing / entertainment expenses”, i.e. bribes….may appear legit on the givers’ set of accounts…but they will have to be accounted for on the recievers’ accounts, tax paid for etc. So, it is all “white” money. The reciever can go buy as many cars as they want….but those funds will have to be accounted for somewhere in their accounts, it is not at all as “black” as in third world nations.

    In any transaction involving a developing or third world nation as the reciever….the bribe is almost always black, without bein declared to the authorities.

    W.r.t scandenavia cross-subsidising their industries by way of aid…..same story with the US or UK or any western country. Hell….the whole Free Trade Agreement crap is all a farce aimed at a one-sided one way street of economic dumping of western goods into cheaper and larger and less saturated markets.

  17. August 29, 2007 10:14 pm

    I read a book once called Ten Keys to Latin America, which compared the social structure of the US to that of LA. The author pointed out that the US has grassroots social and political organizations, based in large part on German and English roots Latin Americans formed their societies around a boss-type figure, usually the largest landowner. This system stems from the Roman colonization of Spain. The result was a system of bribes and power grabs that left the general population out of the loop. That’s one theory.
    This post really got me thinking. Thanks!

  18. August 29, 2007 10:24 pm

    “Hell….the whole Free Trade Agreement crap is all a farce aimed at a one-sided one way street of economic dumping of western goods into cheaper and larger and less saturated markets.”//

    A trade is by definition a relationship between buyer and seller with mutual consent. If a country does not want substandard products of another, it should just say no. And if it says yes, it better shut up about dumping. No one is pointing a gun at it, right?
    Yeah, this racket of linking sales to aid is reprehensible all right, but it is still the responsibility of the buyer country to buy in its own interest.
    The concept of dumping is, I believe, an anti-concept.

  19. August 29, 2007 11:08 pm

    I’m so impressed with the workings of your mind, your research and writing skills, and your reasoned approach. You are an outstanding blogger. And this is a fascinating post that I will need to read a couple of times more to take everythingl in.

  20. August 29, 2007 11:16 pm

    Brightfeather, thanks for the appreciation. 🙂
    Mariachristina, from the point of view of India, it would be very interesting to find out how corruption developed and why exactly it is thriving. I think I should read that book that Axinia recommended!

  21. Phantom permalink
    August 30, 2007 5:07 am

    Rambodoc: “A trade is by definition a relationship between buyer and seller with mutual consent. If a country does not want substandard products of another, it should just say no. ” >>>> yes, in theory you’re absolutely correct. However teh reality is often quite different. Poor countries often are not in a position to reject the goods from more powerful and rich nations. Subtle implications of withdrawal of aid, or even of kickbacks, are often enough to make the powers to be succumb to trade pressures from the richer nation.

    Ever wondered how and why Haliburton, a US based reconstruction agency got most of the contracts for reconstruction work in Iraq and Afghanisthan. The small fact that Dick Cheney happens to be a key “consultant” to haliburton, if of course interestign as well !!!!!!!!

  22. August 30, 2007 6:01 am

    I have to wonder about the criteria that went into what constitutes corruption or how it was defined. It’s true that in the US, an average person is not corrupt (e.g. no bribes for telephone installation, buying tickets, paying bills etc.), but pretty much the majority of elected members of Congress take money from corporations (bribes which are sanitized as “campaign donations” – a rose by any other name 😉 ) and I’d definitely call it corruption, even if it is institutionalized as not.

  23. August 30, 2007 6:30 am

    Some years ago, I moved to Chicago, which is notorious here for its corruption. Soon after I started a job selling telephone services to corporations, one of my prospective customers took me aside and said, “You’re a nice kid, but you will never make it in this town if you don’t learn to give ‘finder’s fees’ to the people who help you make your deals.” Ugh! I hated Chicago, and left after only three years.

  24. August 30, 2007 10:06 am


    First, note that TI’s index measures “perceptions” of corruption. The question is whose perceptions? There is an inherent subjectivity in the measure that should make us question it’s rigour. Indeed, it’s used extensively as if it were some “hard” metric, while little attention is given to how it is actually computed, or is relevant for the purpose.

    In response to your post, my own analyses leave me with the conclusion that transparency correlates strongly with economic freedom. (Here’s an old post). If I recall correctly, Botswana stands out to prove this: in start contrast to the countries in its neighbourhood, it is both less corrupt and more free (economically).

    TI’s measure leaves you thinking richer countries may be less corrupt. But isn’t it the businessmen from the richer countries who are keeping the score?

  25. August 30, 2007 10:23 am

    Amit, Nitin, Ofcourse I am perfectly aware that its a perception survey! I really do not think its used as a hard metric, as they clearly state its perception that they rely on. btw, usually they also interview indians and those in underdeveloped countries, not just those in developed countries.
    Tell me, is there another way to measure it? Is anyone going to admit that they are corrupt? So to my mind this is the only way to measure it and not to give it any importance is a big mistake.

    Coming to the definition of corruption it is “dishonest exploitation of power for personal gain” – thats from the dictionary. The wiki gives a more detailed definition:
    “Corruption is a general concept describing any organized, interdependent system in which part of the system is either not performing duties it was originally intended to, or performing them in an improper way, to the detriment of the system’s original purpose.”

    I am giving this definition to point out that corruption and just plain dishonesty are different, though ofcourse related.
    And looking at it in the strict sense, I feel the survey’s perceptions, at least about India, are correct. We face it here every single day in India, we face it are lower levels and we read about it at higher levels. Why do you think the farmers in Maharashtra are still committing suicide even after the compensation ‘package’? Because they are not getting the money. An NGO has actually done a padyayatra on foot through these stricken villages and found that the officials are taking the money instead.
    Frankly I don’t know about the rich countries, but yes, I do have a perception that they are less corrupt, for whatever reasons. To imagine that they are as corrupt as India is, at least to me wishful thinking. But ofcourse that is simply my perception!

  26. Phantom permalink
    August 30, 2007 11:42 am

    I think its fair to say that high level corruption, by peopel in real position fo power….that happens thorugout the world, i different forms and guises. However, the difference is that in the developed nations, despite the minister or middle man taking his cut……the majority of funds do indeed trickle down to the common man, by way of provision of infrastructure, public activity, etc. Moreover, I feel that the frequency of medium to high level corruption is much much higher in the under-develop nations. For example…..i’m building a house in my city, in a developed OECD country, and when applying for the buiding permit, i didn’t have to give any bribes whatsoever to any officiel from the City Council. Were this to be in India…..even for a simple building consent (and i’m not a builder or developer, just a common chap) i’d have to grease the palms of the relevant official in the Municipality or Council.

    The effect is seen less in the west because despite certain entities taking their cuts, a lot of funds still manage to trickle down the chain…..not everyone in the hierarchy takes a cut….in developing nations….EVERYONE, down the line takes their cut.

  27. krenim permalink
    August 30, 2007 1:04 pm

    [Frankly I don’t know about the rich countries, but yes, I do have a perception that they are less corrupt, for whatever reasons. To imagine that they are as corrupt as India is, at least to me wishful thinking. But ofcourse that is simply my perception!]

    Look the western world represents 80% of world GDP in USD nominal terms therefore in absolute terms there is more corruption because there is a lot lot more money going around.

    All types of corruption need not be bad after all the indian independence movement also required financing would you call those industrialists corrupt?

    I personally feel the US system with open lobbying and campaign contributions are the most honest portrayal of what happens behind the scenes in every democracy worth its salt.
    I mean lets cut through the c*** politicians aren’t saints and have to fight elections and government is the biggest customer in every single economy on the planet so it is natural for businesses to ‘lobby’ on behalf of their interests.Its plain and simple this is a fact of life and always has been from the begining of civilization.Are we worse of as a result of this system?No we aren’t.

  28. August 30, 2007 1:25 pm

    Paul, thanks for sharing that experience!
    Krenim, in India all election money is taken in an underhand manner, and this increases corruption amongst politicians. Kickbacks etc often go into the party’s coffers. But overall, yes your opinion is a balanced one and based on a world view which I do not have. I am thinking you must be one of the really bright students at Rugby. Its at times difficult to believe you are still in your teens!

  29. krenim permalink
    August 30, 2007 3:06 pm

    I hope the good folks at Trinity feel the same way 🙂 Btw thanks for the compliment

    I had commented on one of your posts on the nuclear deal a while ago but for some reason the post didn’t float to the top of the recently commented upon list.I was wondering if there was some technical error or something.It probably wasn’t what you would consider pro India but that is what a debate is all about right? Different people with different views …

  30. August 30, 2007 4:57 pm

    Krenim, I remembered your comment and even replying to it. Therefore I checked, and its very much there. Here is the
    link. It probably did not float to the top of the recent comments list because that day I must have had more than a dozen comments after yours, ie. before you checked it.
    And if I wanted only pro-india comments I would not have published all those comments that you made on the nazi post! 🙂

  31. August 30, 2007 5:53 pm

    yes i get the idea…things happen slowly,for society is like a sea,the changes will only be noticed slowly…but is there time??
    unlike the sea,the society keeps changing,at least the people who belong to the time we realise the present generation’s needs we will be in the next or maybe the next to next gen….this actually is putting us in the back foot…I know what is the feeling among my friends and people around the me…very few have the maturity to think of the society and picture it…If we want to make the country we need everyone!and lets face it our people will never work for peanuts…so how are we going to satisfy people in the cities at the same time help those in the rural areas?we have a large number of migrations too….Thats where the movie is off…We need to make people realise that agriculture and things are also important…the fact that people from the “oppressed” classes feel the job they do is not “good” is also a problem…tell me if you have IT parks and fields together,how many will take the mouse and how many will try to spar the mouse away??

  32. August 30, 2007 5:58 pm

    There is never enough time Vishesh! But I don’t see a quick fix. Those who don’t want to stick around will leave…and slow us down further. But in a democracy nothing can be done. Now I believe they are thinking of restrictions of IIT grads leaving as their education is subsidized by the govt, but they still leave. Actually this idea too does nto make me comfortable. Its best that they simply recover the dues…and let the birds fly. In the long run, its best. Many of these people do give back to India in their own way.

  33. August 30, 2007 6:24 pm

    Interesting post…One thing I’d like to observe is that the corruption rating of a country will be affected not just by things within the country, but also the country’s position in world economics and trade.

    For example, out of two countries with same per capita income, if one has an open economy that welcomes trade and investment from other countries and the other doesn’t, will all the foreign investment coming in affect the corruption level in the former? I may just be rambling but these kinds of issues are what make the study complex.

  34. August 30, 2007 8:50 pm

    Interesting article and interesting comments! I don’t know how/why/when in India petty corruption i.e. a few extra bucks to move something through the system became standard operating procedures. I think what rambodoc mentions and what the article hints makes sense i.e. if there is general trust within individuals that if they works hard, they will be rewarded, then maybe there will be less incentive to make extra bucks through the cracks of the system. This in general I think is related to how free the country’s economy is i.e. how easy is it for anyone to become economically comfortable playing by the rules. In US, in the heart of cities where the average income is lower I think there is more petty corruption. I have heard policemen in downtowns letting go off easy violations if you pass them a few extra bucks. In most suburbs, this is unheard of. I have never run into it in 20 years here.

    Of course, that is petty corruption which I think plays a huge role in the perception based index here. But there are bigger things which may be called corruption or not depending on the society. In my opinion, in the US, some of this is so seamlessly blended into the system that you can’t tell where the dividing line is. You have special interest groups donating millions to a candidate with presumably a covert tryst that he/she will view their interests favorably when he/she is elected. Now doesn’t this sound like plain corruption from a viewpoint (e.g. Indian)? But I am not sure it is condemned as such in the US. For one, it happens everywhere, it is out in the open that everyone knows about it and acknowledges it. And I dont think they label people as corrupt for this. They have “kickbacks” and “illegal kickbacks”. Maybe I am misunderstanding isnt that repetitive? But I guess some kickbacks must be ok. And I guess those are part of the system and hence probably wont figure in the perceptions that went into the metric used here.

    I think the metric *may* be slanted towards perception of petty corruption. Not that that makes it invalid as petty corruption implies a widespread problem and is quite serious. But I wonder that if a country’s has tackled petty corruption, the “corruptible” simply move on to fancier things like stuff in US 🙂 ?

    Nita – in case I have not mentioned it before, you have an excellent blog. So many articles that are thought-provoking and providing nice food for discussions!

  35. August 30, 2007 9:05 pm

    Frankly I don’t know about the rich countries, but yes, I do have a perception that they are less corrupt, for whatever reasons. To imagine that they are as corrupt as India is, at least to me wishful thinking.

    Not denying that there isn’t corruption in India, and I used to think the same too that there is less corruption in the US, but after living here for so many years and observing the political system, I’m not so sure. It’s mostly top-level corruption and much of it is “sanitized” and results in laws which favor corporations to the detriment of common people. Also, there is huge resistance in the congress to implement clean election laws. But yes, there is more transparency too, so that if people want to investigate, information is available. US democracy does resemble an oligarchy sometimes, and increasingly so lately.

  36. August 30, 2007 9:20 pm

    yes they do give back to the country…but when will we become self sufficient??if we have to reach the vision 2020…it will take a lot more than what we already have…maybe we need to modify the country’s laws…i mean the constitution maybe the largest in the world,but it has to evolve…

    btw see this poem

  37. August 30, 2007 9:41 pm

    Mahendra, ofcourse the kind of economy will play a part in influencing things like corruption. How much of a part it will play is open to debate. Just as how much does the richness of a nation affect it’s level of corruption is open to debate. That there is a relationship, I have no doubt…

    What I would like to know is why both USA and Japan are fairly corrupt inspite of having open economies and inspite of being wealthy nations? What do Finland, Switzerland and New Zealand have that American and Japan don’t? Now is there any brilliant soul who can shed light?

    Arunk, yes I too agree with Rambodoc about that aspect. Hope for the future certainly will reduce the temptation of be corrupt. And from what you say and other commentators have said it’s clear that the USA is seen to be quite corrupt. However their public funds seem to be reaching the poor. That is a major concern in India. People die, but no one cares. Out there life is valued, and finally the effect of corruption does need to be taken into account. Today if A steals Rs 500/- and as a result of which someone dies…well, it has different ramifications.
    And Arun, thanks. But it’s guys like you that make this place better. It’s good to discuss these issues and in fact the comments get me thinking a lot too.

    Amit, I guess what you said, more transparency, is an important part of the system in America. It’s law enforcement for example is also very vigorous. That helps people get justice.

  38. August 30, 2007 10:06 pm

    What I would like to know is why both USA and Japan are fairly corrupt inspite of having open economies and inspite of being wealthy nations?

    Nita, probably because everyone else is doing the same and it is part of the system? Also, corporations want to maximize their profits, and the laws help towards that by giving them tax-breaks which are paid using tax-payers’ money. So, lobbyists spend money on congressmen so that when they write laws, it will be in favor of corporations in the form of subsidies etc. I don’t think that if you are rich, then you stop being corrupt – it depends on the person and the system. More money = more power.

  39. August 30, 2007 10:44 pm

    One difference between Group A (US and Japan) and Group B (Finland, Switzerland and New Zealand) could be that Group A represents powerful, prominent economies., and Group B has very low profile countries.

    With money (as in for most/all) comes freedom and power to pursue one’s own dream. Perhaps thats why money initially acts to nullify petty corruption. But with it also comes real power and perhaps there is a tipping point beyond which that power is the attractant, and thus leads to corruption. So both “not enough” and “too much” are bad. Poorer economies as well as very rich and powerful ones have corruption – its the middle guys who have struck a better balance.

    An naive outlook? Perhaps.

  40. August 30, 2007 11:21 pm

    Amit and Arun, thanks for your response. Need to think about this!

  41. vish permalink
    August 31, 2007 11:33 am

    Hi Nita,

    Why go to ‘wiki’ for definition of corruption? We have Gandhiji’s quotes! I find most of the following accepted by as ‘normal’ these days!

    Wealth without Work
    Pleasure without Conscience
    Science without Humanity
    Knowledge without Character
    Politics without Principle
    Commerce without Morality
    Worship without Sacrifice

  42. Bhushan Lele permalink
    September 6, 2007 4:17 am

    Hi Nita,

    I’m really enjoying reading up your thoughtful blogs (I read up the Medical Tourism and North vs South just now…) They’re amazing!!

    My two paise re. your comment –>>

    One explanation is size. Japan’s population of 120 million is greater than the COMBINED population of all the Top 10 Least Corrupt Countries! Greater the size, greater the human interactions (some non-linear proportion, I am sure) and greater the scope for corruption.
    My guess is that France and Germany (most populous countries in Europe) would also turn out to be ‘more corrupt than they should be’ !

  43. September 6, 2007 6:00 am

    Thanks Bhushan. Yes, the point you made is worth thinking about. Perhaps the size of the population does have a bearing, it could be a contributory factor.

  44. NRI permalink
    December 27, 2015 5:17 pm

    I have lived both outside and India. It is definitely more corrupt. It’s cultural because honest people are considered chutias. Those who insist that every country is the same or culture doesn’t matter are trying to soothe their own consciences about Indian culture. Culture is more than dressing up in colours or festivals. It’s the ingrained attitudes of a society. As an example of the extreme narcissism in India they will cry racism if anyone criticises Indians. But they’ll secretly think that black people are inferior and talk disparegly them. To not see the hypocrisy requires extreme narcissism.


  1. President Noynoy, His Critics, and the Future of the Nation

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