Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore were ranked top of Transparency International's 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), all 3 tied with a score of 9.3. Since corruption rears its ugly head in myriad forms, blatant or subtle, it's no wonder this number has been referred to as the "murk meter" in the 5 Nov issue of The Economist. Perceptions, after all, can be so subjective.
One criticism levied is that the Berlin based TI singles out poorer countries since the organisation mirrors the ethos of wealthier nations. And there is their methodology of 13 surveys of experts and business people, which varies from country to country, and over time, making year to year comparisons misleading.
TI claims that a combination of sources measuring the same phenomenon is more reliable than each source taken separately. Their evaluation of the extent of corruption in countries/territories is done by two groups: country experts and business leaders. PERC (Political and Economic Risk Consultancy) is in the business group. It was PERC who once reported that Singaporean wages are higher than that of America and Australia, which then Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan Tony Tan cited to justify the 1 Oct 2003 CPF cut. A cruel cut from which Singaporeans have never recovered. PERC's CEO Broadfoot defended the validity of his company's findings thus: "More often than not, business decisions are made based more on perception than facts." So much for objective professional research.
The other source aggregated for the CPI indicator is provided by country/risk/expert analysts. One of them, Freedom House - Nations in Transit 2010 (FH2010), uses scores derived from pretty tough questions like these:
1. Has the government implements executive anti-corruption initiatives?
2. Is the country's economy free of excessive state involvement?
3. Is the government free from excessive bureaucratic regulations, registration requirements, and other controls that increase opportunities for corruption?
4. Are there significant limitations on the participation of government officials in economic life?
5. Are there adequate laws requiring financial disclosure and disallowing conflict of interest?
6. Does the government advertise jobs and contracts?
7. Does the state enforce an executive legislative or administrative process - particularly one that is free of prejudice against one's political opponents - to prevent , investigate, and prosecute the corruption of government officials and civil servants?
8. Do whistle-blowers, anticorruption activists, investigators, and journalists enjoy legal protections that make them feel secure about reporting cases of bribery and corruption?
9. Are allegations of corruption given wide and extensive airing in the media?
10. Does the public display a high intolerance for offical corruption?
Since we do have members of parliament who collect company directorships like Imelda acquires footwear, or office holders who have benefitted from substantial discounts from property magnates, a perfect score of 10 looks hardly achievable. Question 5 looks particularly dicey.