Corruption Perception Index 2021

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Context: The 2021 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International places India 85th on a list of 180 countries, one position above last year.

Mains: GS II –

  • Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

Why in News?

  • Not much has changed about how corrupt India is perceived to be in a decade. The latest Transparency International Corruption Perception Index for 2021, released Tuesday, said India was among 86% of the 180 countries the index covers that have made little to no progress since 2012.
  • First launched in 1995 by Transparency International, the Index has been widely credited with putting the issue of corruption on the international policy agenda.

About CPI:

  • The CPI is annually released by Transparency International.
  • It draws on 13 surveys and expert assessments to measure public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories, giving each a score from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).
  • The CPI generally defines corruption as the misuse of public power for private benefit.
  • The 2021 CPI draws on 13 surveys and expert assessments to measure public sector corruption in various countries and territories, giving each a score from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).
  • It was launched at the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2020.
Transparency International is a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to fighting corruption. It was founded in 1993 and is based in Berlin, Germany.

Why is the CPI based on perceptions?

  • Corruption usually entails illegal and deliberately hidden activities, which only come to light through scandals or prosecutions. This makes it very difficult to measure.
  • The sources and surveys which make up the CPI are based on carefully designed and calibrated questionnaires, answered by experts and businesspeople.



Highlights from the Index:

  • The Index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople. It relies on 13 independent data sources and uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
  • More than two-thirds of countries (68 per cent) score below 50 and the average global score remains static at 43. Since 2012, 25 countries significantly improved their scores, but in the same period, 23 countries significantly declined.

  • Top Rankers:
    • This year, the top countries are Denmark, Finland and New Zealand, each with a score of 88. Norway (85), Singapore (85), Sweden (85), Switzerland (84), the Netherlands (82), Luxembourg (81) and Germany (80) complete the top 10.
  • Bottom Rankers:
    • South Sudan (11), Syria (13) and Somalia (13) remain at the bottom of the index.
    • Countries experiencing armed conflict or authoritarianism tend to earn the lowest scores, including Venezuela (14), Afghanistan (16), North Korea (16), Yemen (16), Equatorial Guinea (17), Libya (17) and Turkmenistan (19).

India’s Performance:

  • India's rank improved by one place to 85 in 2021 from 86th in 2020, according to the index. Except for Bhutan, all of India's neighbours are ranked below it. Pakistan dropped 16 spots in the index and was ranked at 140.
  • In parts of Asia Pacific, the Americas, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, increasing restrictions on accountability measures and basic civil freedoms allow corruption to go unchecked. Even historically high-performing countries are showing signs of decline, the report said.

  • Global Corruption Barometer has surveyed the experiences of everyday people confronting corruption around the world.
  • Through our Global Corruption Barometer, tens of thousands of people around the globe are asked about their views and experiences, making it the only worldwide public opinion survey on corruption.

How corruption in India, neighbours changed in 10 years

  • In the Asia Pacific region, the report said, the average score remains 45 for the third year in a row. Over 70% of the region’s countries rank below 50. “Some of the region's, and the world’s, most populous countries – China and India – score poorly, as governments crush dissent and limit human rights,” the report noted. In South Asia, Sri Lanka is the only country to score lower now than it did in 2012.
  • The other countries in India’s neighbourhood, while still scoring low, registered no change at all or minimal improvements.
  • “People across the Asia Pacific have led mass movements calling for action against corruption, but little has changed in the last 10 years.
  • Instead populist and autocratic leaders co-opt anti-corruption messaging to stay in power and restrict civil liberties to stop people from taking to the streets,” Ilham Mohamed, Asia regional advisor of Transparency International, said in a statement accompanying the report.
  • The pandemic, the report added, offered an excuse for Bangladesh, Pakistan and Singapore governments to “tighten control and weaken accountability”.

General Analysis:

  • While corruption takes vastly different forms from country to country, this year’s scores reveal that all regions of the globe are at a standstill when it comes to fighting public sector corruption.
  • At the top of the CPI, countries in Western Europe and the European Union continue to wrestle with transparency and accountability in their response to COVID-19, threatening the region’s clean image.
  • In parts of Asia Pacific, the Americas, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, increasing restrictions on accountability measures and basic civil freedoms allow corruption to go unchecked. Even historically high-performing countries are showing signs of decline.
  • In the Middle East and North Africa, the interests of a powerful few continue to dominate the political and private sphere, and the limitations placed on civil and political freedoms are blocking any significant progress.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, armed conflict, violent transitions of power and increasing terrorist threats combined with poor enforcement of anti-corruption commitments rob citizens of their basic rights and services.

Trouble at the top, COVID-19 and human rights

  • As anti-corruption efforts stagnate worldwide, human rights and democracy are also under assault.
  • This is no coincidence. Our latest analysis shows that protecting human rights is crucial in the fight against corruption: countries with well-protected civil liberties generally score higher on the CPI, while countries who violate civil liberties tend to score lower.
  • The global COVID-19 pandemic has also been used in many countries as an excuse to curtail basic freedoms and sidestep important checks and balances.


The link between corruption and human rights
  • Our analysis of this year’s CPI results shows that upholding human rights is crucial in the fight against corruption, with countries who violate civil liberties generally scoring lower on the CPI.
  • Corruption undermines the ability of governments to guarantee the human rights of their citizens. This affects the delivery of public services, the dispensation of justice and the provision of safety for all.
  • In particular, grand corruption committed by high-level officials usually combines the large-scale, transnational theft of public funds with gross human rights violations.
  • Our analysis shows that such corruption schemes – often facilitated by advanced economies who score well on the CPI – exacerbate repression by allowing autocrats to:
    • Enjoy looted funds. Employing complicit bankers, lawyers and real-estate brokers in major financial centres, the corrupt can store their illicit gains, reward cronies and further concentrate their power.
    • Launder their reputation abroad. By bribing foreign politicians and employing western public relations firms and lobbyists, authoritarian and kleptocratic regimes soften international pressure on their human rights records.
    • Evade accountability. Through the abuse of secret companies and anonymous investments, the corrupt can hide their wrongdoing from law enforcement or judicial bodies and escape consequences.
What needs to be done

Corruption may be a multifaceted problem, but it is one we know how to solve. We are calling on the public to demand that governments act on their own anti-corruption and human rights commitments, some of which are decades old and remain unfulfilled. Many of the anti-corruption successes in recent history have been due to the tireless, coordinated efforts of ordinary people, who have taken great personal risks to make change happen.

To end the vicious cycle of corruption, human rights violations and democratic decline, people should demand that their governments:

  • Uphold the rights needed to hold power to account. Governments should roll back any disproportionate restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly introduced since the onset of the pandemic. Ensuring justice for crimes against human rights defenders must also be an urgent priority.
  • Restore and strengthen institutional checks on power. Public oversight bodies such as anti-corruption agencies and supreme audit institutions need to be independent, well-resourced and empowered to detect and sanction wrongdoing. Parliaments and the courts should also be vigilant in preventing executive overreach.
  • Combat transnational forms of corruption. Governments in advanced economies need to fix the systemic weaknesses that allow cross-border corruption to go undetected or unsanctioned. They must close legal loopholes, regulate professional enablers of financial crime, and ensure that the corrupt and their accomplices cannot escape justice.
  • Uphold the right to information in government spending. As part of their COVID-19 recovery efforts, governments must make good on their pledge contained in the June 2021 UNGASS political declaration to include anti-corruption safeguards in public procurement. Maximum transparency in public spending protects lives and livelihoods.
Way Forward
  • Transparency International has recommended a series of measures to combat rising corruption across the world.
  • Following are the recommendations:
    • Manage conflicts of interest.
    • Control political financing.
    • Strengthen electoral integrity.
    • Regulate lobbying activities.
    • Empower citizens.
    • Tackle preferential treatment.
    • Reinforce checks and balances.
  • The CPI has been widely credited with putting the issue of corruption on the International Policy Agenda.
  • It sends a powerful message and the governments are forced to acknowledge their scores and act on them.
  • The governments must urgently address the corrupting role of big money in political party financing and the undue influence it exerts on the political systems.

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