At a first, indiscriminate glance, the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), published annually by TI, seems to confirm the stereotypical notion that corruption is predominantly a problem of the South. While the Scandinavian countries come out on top, most of sub-Saharan Africa ranks at the bottom. It would not only be wrong to conclude, however, that - according to the CPI 2007 - Somalia and Myanmar are the most corrupt country in the world; it would also be counterproductive.
The index is not intended to brand any one country, or to pit the North against the South. Rather, it is a tool to raise public awareness of the problem and promote better governance. Corruption is as much a problem of the North as it is of the South. Recent scandals in Germany, France, Japan, the US or the UK attest to that. It is well-established checks and controls that make the difference in proportion. People are as corrupt as the system allows them to be. It is where temptation meets permissiveness that corruption takes root on a wide scale. Such an environment is more likely in the emerging democracies of the South and East. There, administration and political institutions are still weak and pay scales are generally very low, tempting officials to "supplement" their income. In dictatorial systems, meanwhile, administrative and political institutions are nothing but an extension of the usurper's corrupt practices.
The North also carries part of the responsibility for the situation in the South due to its role as the bribe-payer. After all, it is largely Northern corporate interests that supply the bribe payments. Until recently, governments of the North not only tolerated these corrupt practices, but they even rewarded them with tax deductibility. Fortunately, the 1999 OECD Anti-Bribery Convention has made the bribing of foreign officials a criminal offence. TI has addressed this aspect with its Bribe Payers Index (BPI), the logical complement to the CPI.
In addition to the question of the regional pervasiveness of corruption, the issue of corruption by sector is also often raised. The BPI provides some statistical evidence as to which business sectors are most prone to corruption. According to these results, the problem of corruption is particularly prevalent in public works and construction, followed by the arms and defence industry. The sector with the least detected corruption was agriculture.
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