Transparency International CPI2012 shows Portugal must target corruption


Transparency International has just released its Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 and Portugal scores 63/100, ranking 33rd this year, one place below last year’s position and 3 points above the Cape Verde islands.

As austerity strengthens there’s no similar counterpart in anti-corruption measures to be issued by the political and governmental power in order to provide greater accountability of its actions and that of its employees.

It’s sad to verify such reality as prevalent corruption constitutes a “dirty tax”, leading to the appropriation of resources by public officials and to undesirable allocations of public investment from a development perspective.

Austerity combined with corruption leads to increasingly higher taxes with increasingly lower returns, a familiar cenario to most southern Europeans. On the other side, less corruption means better public investment with lower costs.

Said that, it’s frustrating to see Portugal ranking a barely positive grade as government officials demand so much from its citizens. Not only corruption takes away scarce resources from the economy but it also deteriorates competitiveness, budget consolidation and social stability, three major vectors of the structural adjustment programme itself.

Public distrust undermine political institutions,  triggering widespread trickle-down corruption and the construction of rent-seeking societies as a whole. In other words, if the wealthy and the powerful are corrupt and their corruption is tolerated by the guardians of the law, then there’s no real incentives for any other citizen to comply other than their ability to sleep at night.

Quality public investment is one of the most important channels of development and poverty alleviation. Low quality public investment often hurts the more vulnerable households who need it most, enhancing inequality and perpetuating poverty cycles. That playing along with the lack of information and accountability of the government officials creates the potential for greater social arrest and, consequently, further corruption, as can be seen in the case of Greece.

The above constitutes argument for the implementation of a strong anti-corruption policies, enhancing transparency and accountability towards closing the ever increasing gap between formal political institutions and the civil society.

Governance is an issue for a 38 years old Portuguese democracy approaching its midlife crisis at a fast pace. Portugal CPI (63/100) is below EU15 average CPI (72/100) and in line with EU27 average CPI (64/100). However, Portugal CPI is above PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) average CPI (51,5/100), mostly because of the aberrant CPIs presented by both Italy (42/100) and Greece (36/100).

The 16 point difference between the Portugese score and the EU15 – PIGS average CPI (79/100) sugests that Portugal can learn something from the experience of its neighbours, although there’s no applicable recipe for erradicating corruption.

It is clear that anti-corruption measures must play a significant role in shaping the future of the structural ajustment plans applied in southern Europe as Italy and Greece, especially, are perceived to be among the 3 most corrupt EU nations (the other is Bulgaria). In case these national governments don’t deal directly with such problems it is likely that further pressions for deviant behaviour emerge along with strengthened austerity.

The PALOP (African countries with Portuguese as official language) average CPI is 36/100. Mozambique (31/100 CPI), Guinea-Bissau (25/100 CPI) and Angola (22/100 CPI) rank among the most corrupt countries in the world. Botswana (65/100 CPI) and Cape Verde (60/100 CPI) are among the examples to emulate in Africa.

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2 responses to “Transparency International CPI2012 shows Portugal must target corruption

  1. Frederico Martins de Carvalho

    Don’t you think the “illicit enrichment” law (once in place), as well as the general centralization of decision, specially regarding budgets and expenditure, that has been verified may be seen as anti-corruption actions? I understand if that may not be enough, but honestly I feel these scores may be influenced by older corruption cases, or suspicions, that have to public knowledge, as well as some sense of poor distribution of fiscal weight, rather than an increase in actual, public resource draining, corruption cases.

    • No, honestly I don’t think of such mesasures as anti-corruption policies. As I see it, it’s housekeeping. The raison d’être of such policies is to cut costs. To be effective, the struggle against corruption must be an end in itself.

      When we talk about corruption we’re not simply talking about making money, we’re talking about other less evident realities such as influence peddling, lobbies and the prevalent ability of certain agents to influence the public agenda to serve their personal or corporate interests.

      Corruption is a multidimensional phenomenon and requires a broader approach with particular emphasis on its cultural aspects. And we must recall that the suspicion about political power is itself a important restriction to economic activity.

      Suppose you have two people, one with political affiliation and one politically independent. Suppose both apply to a job in a public agency. Do you honestly believe they have the same chances of being selected, regardless of their achievements?

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