Given the 2012 Corruption Perception Index from Transparency International, why do states commonly considered equivalent in terms of geo-political or economic situation vary in terms of perceived public sector corruption? (http://www.transparency.org/cpi2012/results)

Given the 2012 CPI as a proxy of actual public sector corruption, why do equivalent states differ in their corruption? What competiting theories of public sector corruption exist?

For example, and across a spectrum of values and differences:

  • New Zealand | Canada & Australia
  • Holland | Belgium
  • BRICS ( Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa )
  • PIGS ( Portugal, Italy, Ireland, ?Iceland?, Greece and Spain )
  • Chile | Argentina
  • Bhutan | Nepal
  • Latvia | Lithuania | Estonia
  • 5
    It might help if you provide specific examples of what you consider to be the equivalent pairs.
    – user4012
    Commented May 14, 2013 at 1:56
  • 1
    I cannot understand what countries like Iceland (320k of people) and Italy (about 60 million of people) has in common: politics, demography, bureaucracy, industry are different. PIGS acronym, cited by some media, is violently offensive towards those countries and should not have place in any serious debate, like those we are trying to build on this SE.
    – chirale
    Commented May 19, 2013 at 22:51
  • The existence of an existing social comparison is sufficient, regardless of its offensiveness. Disease is offensive and still an object of study. Correspondingly, so are the views of the European financial services elite on their prediction of the propensity for governments to fail to service their debts in the manner demanded by financial services elites. Commented May 19, 2013 at 22:53
  • Your list is simply confusing. You should try to compare similar countries i.e. using OECD rankings instead of trying to make up a list with so different countries using term popular in the media but without a real meaning.
    – chirale
    Commented May 19, 2013 at 23:01
  • I'm sorry you have a problem with my question. But my question doesn't relate to comparing the Corruption Perception Index to OECD rankings. Feel free to produce your own question. Commented May 19, 2013 at 23:03

2 Answers 2


Short Answer: Maybe economic near-equivalence is a lousy explanatory variable for corruption.

Long Answer: This is as much a question about the CPI as it is about politics. Scales like the CPI or the Failed States Index attempt to measure states by a rigorous set of metrics over a scale on the order of 100, with varying granularity. For the cases like Canada and New Zeland, they may happen to fall into different colors on the map, but their scores aren't all that far apart (6 points). It's possible that the CPI has a less granular set of clusters that better describes the corruption in one country relative to another. In other words, maybe the scale is bad because it's too precise. In the Canada/New Zealand case, this would mean that both of these countries fall into the same cluster, even though they didn't fall on the same point in the number line or bin in the choropleth.

The question becomes more interesting when we look at pairs like Bhutan/Nepal or Chile/Argentina. These countries have a much wider spread in their scores. I don't have a substantive background in either region (and I don't feel like picking through the statistics at this moment) but I would question the implicit assumption that their economic situations are similar because their sizes are similar or they have close geographic proximity to one another. If this happens to be the case, then I would proceed to the short answer above: maybe the economic character of a state simply has little relationship with the people's perception of corruption in reality.


It seems that corruption is not dependant on economy, education, governmental stability etc. but on the common attitude toward it.

For an example; One would not dare to attempt to bribe a police officer, if he thinks that the vast majority of officers would press charges against such an attempter. But in places were bribe is common, why not try it? If that specific cop is among the 1% honest, then try to bribe the judge...

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