Archive for Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Checks and balances curb corruption

November 24, 2009


A new survey on corruption around the world confirms what many of us have long suspected: Fiery populist leaders who rise to power vowing to eradicate corruption often end up leading sleazier governments than their predecessors.

If you look at the 2009 Corruption Perception Index released by Transparency International, a Germany-based nongovernment group that is considered to be the world’s most influential corruption watchdog, Latin America is a case in point.

The ranking, based on more than a half-dozen separate polls, lists 180 countries around the world. They go from the ones perceived to be the most honest (New Zealand and Denmark) to the ones seen as most corrupt (Afghanistan and Somalia).

In Latin America, excluding Caribbean countries, the regional champions of corruption are — in order — Venezuela, Paraguay, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Bolivia and Argentina, the survey said. Ironically, most of these countries’ presidents have won elections presenting themselves as anti-corruption crusaders.

In Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998 to a big extent thanks to his promises to crack down on what he accurately described as a corrupt political class, corruption has worsened since.

When Transparency began to do its Corruption Perception Index in 2001, Venezuela ranked 69th in a list of 91 countries — or at the bottom 25th percentile of the world’s most corrupt countries.

In 2009, Venezuela ranked 162 in the list of 180 countries, or in the 10th percentile of the world’s most corrupt.

Is there a relation between populism and corruption, I asked Alejandro Salas, head of Transparency’s Americas department? I noted that virtually all of Latin America’s most corruption-ridden countries are led — or were led until recently — by populist leaders.

“You could say so,” Salas said. “There is a direct relation between populism and institutional weakness. And institutional weakness leads to corruption.”

Salas told me that when he looks at this year’s index, he sees three groups of countries in Latin America.

“The first group is that of the countries that are best rated, which are Chile, Uruguay, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica,” he said.

“They are widely perceived as the less corrupt, and they tend to have stability, free and regular elections and, in most cases, independent judiciaries and other effective systems of checks and balances.

“The second group is that of countries that are in the middle of the list, such as Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Peru,” he continued. “They are countries with contradicting trends: They have some modern institutions, but also some remnants of ancient practices that breed corruption.

“The third group is made up of the countries with the lowest ratings, which in recent years have suffered a kind of ‘state capture’ by their charismatic leaders,” Salas said.

He added, “In countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, government leaders have shattered the system of checks and balances. And when there are no watchdogs, you tend to have more arbitrary allocations of funds, and fewer transparent bids for government contracts.”

What about the United States? I asked Salas. The United States shows up in the ranking as the second most honest country in the Americas, after Canada.

Salas said that the good U.S. standing in the survey may be due to the fact that the polls asked about government — not private — corruption.

In addition, survey respondents may have felt that the U.S. government responded rapidly and strongly to financial scandals.

My opinion: I would not be surprised if in coming years, as we find out more about the Bush administrations scandalously lax regulatory practices that helped cause the current recession, the United States will fall a few notches in the corruption perception index. It should.

But I’m not surprised by the fact that Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and other countries led by authoritarian populist leaders lead the region’s corruption ranking.

They are the same leaders who have tried to co-opt all branches of government, and who are now trying to curb the media.

The more they succeed in grabbing absolute powers, the more corrupt — and closer to world corruption champion Somalia — their countries will be.


canyon_wren 8 years, 1 month ago

Not being really familiar with this particular columnist, I was naive enough to assume he was going to draw some parallels with our current situation. However, instead, he says the following.

"My opinion: I would not be surprised if in coming years, as we find out more about the Bush administrations scandalously lax regulatory practices that helped cause the current recession, the United States will fall a few notches in the corruption perception index. It should."

It seems likely that If he will just wait a few years, he will probably find (if he's honest) that the ratings will drop even further with our current White House occupant.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

Corruption in the USA is probably a censored news product on the world front.

Let's start with Nixon's Watergate: CRIME: Which party illegally spied on the democrats to win an election? Republicans! Watergate!

Reagan-Bush Iran Contra Illegal Weapons Sales: CRIME: Who hosted the Iran Contra secret illegal sale of weapons? Republicans!

CRIME: Who brought the nation Iran Contra number 2?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 1 month ago

Isn't it odd each time our nations financial institutions crumble there are Bush family near by and a McCain still in office?

Financial Scandals Sink The USA Economy

  1. The Reagan/ Bush Home Loan Scandal

  2. The Bush/Cheney Home Loan Scandal

  3. What did Bush and Henry Paulson do with the bail out money?

  4. Why did GW Bush Lie About Social Security?

McCain: The Most Reprehensible of the Keating Five. The story of "the Keating Five" has become a scandal rivaling Teapot Dome and Watergate ...

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

Don't forget that one of Dear Leader's fellow corruptocrats in Chicago was found floating in the Chicago River with a bullet in his head last week. He was scheduled to testify before a grand jury in the near future. The Chicago PD was calling it a suicide last time I checked the news.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.