Transparency International exposes global scale of corruption

by Alex Pivovarsky and Özge Aydogan

This week, Transparency International published the Global Corruption Barometer 2013, which captures views of the general population on the prevalence of corruption, incidence of bribery and general sense of empowerment to resist corrupt practices. The report is based on survey interviews with over 100,000 people in 107 countries (including 28 of the EBRD’s countries of operations) and complements the better-known Corruption Perceptions Index that relies exclusively on expert opinions.

The survey found that corruption remains pervasive in much of the world and has increased in recent years. More than one in four respondents said they paid a bribe over the past 12 months when accessing key public institutions and services. More than half of the people surveyed believe the incidence of bribery has increased over the past two years.

The incidence of corruption is high in many of the EBRD’s countries of operation. Nine of our countries of operation report an incidence of bribery greater than the global average, and only in five of them (Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Estonia, and Slovenia) is the proportion of people reporting payment of bribes below 10 per cent. The share of people reporting having paid a bribe increased in 19 of 28 countries compared to two years ago and declined in only three countries (Azerbaijan, Georgia and Serbia) over the same period.

The incidence of bribery varies across and within the regions. However, with the exception of Georgia, all countries with a reported incidence of bribery below ten per cent are in Central and South Eastern Europe and the Baltics.

Corruption in the judiciary and police is viewed as the main problem by people surveyed in the majority of our countries of operation. In many of these countries, significant shares of people that reported contact with the courts also acknowledged having paid a bribe. In the Kyrgyz Republic, 58 per cent of people that had contact with the judiciary reported payment of bribes, in Moldova 34 per cent, in Ukraine 21 per cent and in Egypt 18 per cent. Bribery involving the police is often even more severe. For example, in Kazakhstan 54 per cent of respondents reported paying bribes to the police, in Turkey 23 per cent per cent, and in Serbia 20 per cent.

These results are consistent with the EBRD’s Life in Transition Survey and highlight significant flaws in the rule of law in many of our countries of operation, a critical ingredient for private sector development and growth. According to the 2011 Life in Transition Survey, trust in central state institutions, such as the presidency, the government and parliament, is strikingly high in many countries in the CIS region, significantly higher than trust in those same institutions in the new EU member states or the established democracies in Western Europe. However, trust in institutions with which citizens are more likely to interact on a daily basis – the police and the courts – is significantly lower across the transition region than in the western European countries. In particular, south-eastern European countries continue to have extremely low levels of trust in courts – just over 20 per cent of respondents told the Transparency International report that they have some trust or complete trust in the judicial system. These results are also related to the view reported in the Corruption Barometer that government is run in the interests of a few big entities acting in their own narrow self-interest.

In the overwhelming majority of the EBRD’s countries of operation those surveyed by Transparency International feel that government actions in fighting corruption are ineffective. In Ukraine, 80 per cent of those surveyed indicated such initiatives to be ineffective, in Lithuania 79 per cent, in Russia and Slovenia 77 per cent, in Morocco 71 per cent, and in Bosnia 70 per cent. Several countries stand out favourably: in Azerbaijan, 68 per cent of people surveyed believe the government initiatives have been effective, in Georgia 54 per cent, and in Turkey 41 per cent.

People in the EBRD region profess little hope in their ability to make a difference when dealing with corruption. Thus, the group of countries where fewer than 40 per cent of people believe they have the power to make a difference consists exclusively of our countries of operation, and none of the countries with the share above 80 per cent are in the EBRD region.

On the positive side, a large proportion of people are willing to get involved in the fight against corruption, even in some of the most corruption-prone environments. For example, in Russia 94 per cent of respondents revealed willingness to engage in at least one kind of anti-corruption activities, in Bosnia 88 per cent of respondents expressed interest in such activities, and in Ukraine and Egypt 68 per cent.

The survey confirms once again that corruption is an issue that requires the systematic attention of the authorities and other stakeholders in many of the EBRD’s countries of operation.