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Politicians least trusted the world over

December 14, 2007

The Global Corruption Barometer (2007) by Transparency International is out and it’s interesting to see where India stands in relation to the world. The survey is a public opinion survey of 63,199 respondents in 60 countries (by Gallup International) and tells us how people perceive corruption in different sectors like the Legislature, Politics, Media and so on.

Here is a global chart. To see the graph below more clearly, right click to ‘view image’. Due to constraints of space/design I cannot post a very large image here:

My analysis below is not a comparison of the level of corruption in different countries – for that you can read my post here. This is a brief analysis of the different way each country views its (own) various institutions. Again, it’s not a comparison of the actual levels of corruption from country to country or within a country, but a comparison of the perceived level of corruption of different institutions within the same country and the sector-wise differences (not actual) between different countries.

In India (more details on this later) almost all sectors are perceived to be corrupt but Political Parties and the Police more so. The Police being seen as extremely corrupt is typical of underdeveloped nations.

The World
While corruption in political parties is seen to be high/highest in many countries, in most developed countries the law enforcement machinery is perceived to be less corrupt than most other sectors.

In the United Kingdom, although politicians are seen to the most corrupt, they are followed closely by the Media and the Business/Private sector and then comes Parliament. The British feel that their Registry and Permit Services are the least corrupt and feel that their Education System and Medical Services are relatively clean.

Countries such as Hong Kong view their politicians with less of a cynical eye and see their Business/Private sector as the most corrupt, followed by the Media, Political Parties and NGO’s. Citizens feel that their Registry & Permit Services, Taxation Authorities and their Utilities are the least corrupt.

In Singapore again it’s the Business/Private sector which is seen to be as the most corrupt, with NGO’s equally so. This is followed closely by the Media, Religious Bodies and only then come the political parties. Singapore citizens feel that their Military, their Education system, their Registry & Permit Services, Taxation Authorities and their Utilities are the least corrupt.

In Norway, again it’s the Business/Private sector which is seen to be the most corrupt, followed by the Media, Religious bodies, NGO’s, the Military and then the Political Parties. The country trusts it’s Tax & Revenue officials and it’s Registry & Permit Services the most.

United States citizens however have less faith in their legal system as compared to other developed nations. After the Politicians and Legislature, they seem to distrust their Legal System, their Media, Business and…the Tax Revenue authorities! Americans feel that their Military and their Registry & Permit Services are the least corrupt.

Distrust of Taxation officials seems to be high in Italy too. While Italians distrust their Politicians and their Parliament/Legislature the most, this is followed by the tax revenue and the Registry & Permit Services. This is followed by Business, the Legal System and then the Medical Services. The Italians trust their Military and the Police the most.

In India tragically the police are seen to be as corrupt as the politicians, followed closely by Legal System and the Parliament. In fact Indians see every single sector as highly corrupt, except for it’s Military!

In Pakistan, the police are seen to be more corrupt than the politicians and the legal machinery and legislature/parliament almost as corrupt as the politicians! Not surprisingly, Pakistanis don’t trust their Military either.

The poor have to pay the most bribes
Talking across countries, it’s the poor who bribe more than the rich. It’s not the actual money that is the considered here, but simply the number of times people had to pay a bribe. I guess that is why so many of the poor in India are so cynical. Mostly they believe that one has to pay a bribe for everything – to get a job, get a ration card, or get ‘free’ treatment in hospital. The rich don’t need to bribe for these…they don’t look for unskilled jobs where they can be easily replaced and nor do they need free treatment in hospitals. Besides, they use ‘connections’ and ‘networking’ to get many things done.

A more detailed view of India:

There have been no dramatic changes in perception over the last three years but there has been a gradual decrease in the faith that people have in the Parliament. Perhaps this is due to some sting operations by the Indian Media. The trust in the Military is going up gradually (inspite of media reports of corruption in the Army) and trust in Religious Bodies is decreasing. You can read about how much faith the public has in their own Media (global research) here.

You can read the press release by Transparency International regarding the Global Corruption Barometer specially for India here.

You can read which country pays the least and the most bribes here.

(All graphs/images have been taken from Transparency International)

Related Reading: Comparisons of violent crime in the world
Too many policemen deployed on security duty
Poor Police to People ratio in India
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14 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2007 10:27 am

    Very interesting read. The article also mentioned somewhere that Indians think corruption will increase in the coming years and that Govt. efforts are ineffectual.

    I wonder if the thousand-odd people who responded even know of the Govt. efforts to tackle corruption. Do they know what the Govt. is doing to make the police more accountable and less corrupt?

    When the public at large is unaware of reform efforts, it can hardly exert any popular pressure for specific reforms. It is not enough if people say police is corrupt. Public understanding should evolve to the stage where they say, “separate crime investigation from law and order” or “raise salaries to eliminate need-based corruption”, or “give three year tenure to field officers” etc.

  2. December 14, 2007 10:55 am


    The whole process of making the police more accountable by implementing the recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977) has been stalled and you can read about it in this DNA article. Sure, no one has given up but the fact is that very few states have taken concrete steps inspite of orders of the courts so you can understand the cynicism of the people.
    I have now added several of my posts as related reading and it will give an idea as to how the crime situation is in India.
    The problem is implementation. Today the state govt. doesn’t want to give up their authority on the police (one of the reform measures) as they want the police to be their minions.

  3. December 14, 2007 11:23 am

    If I may say, cause and effect relationship between lack of implementation and public cynicism is not clear cut. I believe if public were more aware and less cynical, implementation would necessarily follow. After all, we got our RTI. We need someone who can educate public about what the proposed reforms are.

    A young nation with half the population younger than 25 shouldn’t be cynical, right?

    PS: Wow, Kiran Bedi commented on your site!! I am such a fan of her!!

  4. Bharath permalink
    December 14, 2007 11:44 am

    The Lokayukta in karnataka headed by Justice Venkatachala, a former Supreme Court judge was doing good but he has been removed… It’s Mystery.. Read more news from lokayuktha here

    I feel RTI is a greatest move to stop corruption.

  5. December 14, 2007 11:54 am


    Thanks. Nice to have you back. 🙂
    I agree that the RTI is the greatest tool to stop corruption and that is why there is hope for this country. The problem is that many RTI requests are pending for months…and there have been news reports talking about how officials try to stall the RTI requests. But even then I think there is hope, because people who file RTI applications are themselves driven, they usually fight to the end. The only hope are people like these.

  6. vish permalink
    December 14, 2007 12:21 pm

    corruption is a relative term…people complain about corruption when it suits them…I have seen people caught by a cop for driving without license pay the cop to get away and talk about bad about the ‘cop’ for taking money later! Dont you think both are corrupt? I feel corruption is more in countries/societies that are corrupt…why blame only politicians? They are afterall our representatives!

  7. December 14, 2007 12:47 pm

    Thank you Anand, and I am a great fan of Kiran Bedi too. 🙂
    I do agree that we shouldn’t be cynical because cynicism can lead to bitterness to inaction.
    Action needs to be the buzzword and the belief that we can all contribute in different ways is very important.
    However I don’t agree that the information about reforms is not available. It’s available in the media, though I agree not highlighted.
    but anyway, you have given me a germ of an idea for a post. 🙂

    as you said the police are simply a selection from us the people. Taking a bribe is as bad as giving it. However in exceptional circumstances like when a person is dying and the govt. hospital officials refuse to admit him… except for such situations I think bribes should not be given.

  8. December 14, 2007 2:13 pm

    @ Nita: The scale of corruption is not universal so I find such surveys rather unreliable as they compare apples to oranges.

    What is labelled as corruption in the UK will not even get noticed in India! Just yesterday, I was speaking with a friend about how civil servants’ children in our schools used to come to school in their fathers’ official cars. If this happened here, it will be in the newspapers everywhere the next day, and the MP will have to explain and apologise in the parliament and so on.

    People here get all hot and bothered if a politician is seen as incompetent and tries to hide it. What will be seen as corrupt will be things like this:

    An MP being paid by someone to ask a question in the Parliament (an MP did and served a long jail sentence for it)
    An MP or minister recommending someone for a peerage (i.e. the title of Lord/ Baroness which allows that person to sit in House of Lords) because he/ she made a large contribution to the party (Blair was the only sitting PM so far to face a police enquiry into the matter and that it was hushed up does not reflect well on Blair but now he is not in power, nobody cares about him)
    An MP enjoying a holiday in a celebrity’s house in an exotic locale year after year and claiming it is friendship (Blair and Cliff Richard come to mind and there was an uproar when a susequent statement on copyright extension was put forward – which is Cliff Richard’s bugbear at this time)

    In the UK I have dealt with the Inland Revenue, the Health Service, various advisors in various departments, the Home Office’s immigration services and I have never paid a bribe. That is another difference – if someone so much as hinted and I reported him/ her, there would be action taken immediately against him/ her, I would be assigned to another officer.

    It is another matter than I never paid a bribe in India either. Not in the passport office, not to tax guys, not to licence office. Because I would much rather go without things. Which is why I never had a landline phone in India. I started using a mobile in 1995 with huge bills but I would not pay for a phone line! That was it.

    I stood in line amid smelly, staring men in old Lucknow to get my passport till a female officer saw that an 18 year old girl was not safe in such a place and asked me to come aside and helped me most kindly. No men made a noise by the way. She smiled and dismissed my gratitude saying she had a younger sister my age and she would not like her to stand amid these men either.

    The reason why British people see business as corrupt is because of a legacy problem of socialistic thinking. British people tut-tut over anyone they see as an underdog. If a business/ MNC were seen to be an underdog the public would be on their side. This is a gross generalisation but in the absence of social context, the outcomes could be taken too seriously to draw the wrong conclusions.

    About the US: I would agree with much of what they said. The links between business and politicians are clear and there is egregious lobbying by all sectors in Washington DC. But then not many Americans are anti-business really, and they prefer people to look after themselves etc, so their stance on the issue is at best muddled, at worst, confused.

  9. December 14, 2007 3:33 pm


    Thanks for you very detailed and informative comment. Ofcourse the kind of corruption differs from country to country, I am certainly aware of that. It’s like when you get rid of the worst forms of corruption, the country starts to become picky about the other things.
    About such surveys being unreliable, well they do have their limitations, but I think ‘unreliable’ is a harsh word. Perhaps I should have put a disclaimer about this research as every single time I write about any research, a comment similar to this crops up!
    But if you ask me I think global barometers are important BUT ofcourse one has to keep in mind the realities of every country. I guess I did take it for granted that people will see this. Every country is different and unique and any comparison of two countries has to be seen in this context.

  10. December 14, 2007 6:20 pm

    Not something we did not know already. 🙂
    A very informative write btw. Thanks for sharing.

  11. December 15, 2007 3:48 am

    Whether they’re actually corrupt or not can be difficult to say. But if there’s a chance for money, power, and benefits to be exchanged then there’s a chance for corruption.

    It comes to no surprise that the US is jaded when it comes to our “democratic government”. People still talk about the whole election debacle in Florida as if it happened yesterday, more so as we get closer to elections. It was just a little too coincidental that the ballot recount took place in the state where Bush’s cousin was governor. A lot of people don’t “bother” to vote because they feel their vote doesn’t count.

    I think our legal system is relatively good- not as bad as some, but not the greatest either. Like with many things, there are loop holes.

    I take the media with a grain of salt. I tend to read the papers from the UK and Canada so that I’m not stuck with just one (sometimes biased) point of view.

  12. December 17, 2007 9:31 am

    Prasoon, thanks.

    Mish Lee: Thanks for letting us know about the US. I think one of the reasons for the cynicism about the US is because of the lawyers who are known as kind of sharks who manipulate the legal system. I maybe wrong but this is the impression I got of the US.

  13. December 17, 2007 8:56 pm

    That could be an accurate impression. If they have the network and are capable, I wouldn’t put it past lawyers or anyone else in the legal system.

    Coincidentally, someone was just telling me about a lawyer in the mid-west. He’s currently in prison for stealing confiscated guns for his personal collection and using the judge’s signature stamp.


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