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Cause for celebration

There’s some really good news that gives us cause for celebration, and there’s also some bad news that gives us cause for concern. First, the good news: We have made some solid strides in our fight against corruption. While preparing for a talk at the Asian Development Bank, I looked at Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) from when it first started doing this index in 1995, and traced it through to 2014, for the Philippines, and for comparator countries. Here’s what I found:

Our Corruption Perception Index

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(Various Years)

Year(1)     CPI Value(2)   Country Rank(3)     Percentile

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(4)

1995        2.8          36th of 41        12

2000        2.8          69th of 90        23

2005        2.5          117th of 159            26

2010        2.4          134th of 178            25

2011        2.6          129th of 182            29

2012        34           105th of 174            40

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2013        36           94th of 175             46

2014        38          85th of 175             51

Note that column 1 gives us the CPI every five years from 1995 to 2010, and for every year thereafter.

Now go to column 2: The CPI runs from 0 to 100 , zero being the most corrupt and 100 being the cleanest (it used to be from 0 to 10, but they changed in 2012). It is a “poll of polls,” using the results of various surveys—they started with seven surveys, they now have 12—including from the World Competitive Report, the Economist, the World Bank, etc. And it “measures” corruption in the public sector only.

Notice from column 2 how our CPI actually went down between 1995 and 2010. In that 15-year period, the Philippines’ score went down from 2.8 to 2.4. That suggests we were losing the fight against corruption.

Our CPI rose for the first time in 2011, and then it never looked back. Caveat: TI changed its methodology in 2012, so the CPI from 2012 upward cannot be compared to the CPIs before then.

But we can still see how the Philippines did, compared to the other countries in the survey. This is column 3. Our country ranking went from 36 to 134 (the lower the better) between 1995 and 2010. And then went down steadily from 2011 to 2014 (129 to 85). That has to count for something, but the number of countries in the list went up from 41 to as much as 182, settling down to 175. So to make the rankings comparable, we convert them all to percentiles, and we see how the Philippines fared.

This is given in column 4. This shows that in 1995, the Philippines was below 88 percent of the countries—that is, it occupied the 12th percentile. That means we were in the bottom 12 percent of the countries. In 2000, despite the same CPI score, we were in the 23rd percentile—we were literally moving up in the world despite the fact that our CPI did not change. The other countries that joined the list were more corrupt than we were. We climbed to the 26th percentile in 2005, but went down to the 25th percentile in 2010.

Then look what happened in 2011: We climbed to the 29th percentile. In 2012 we were in the 40th percentile, and in 2014 we were in the 51st percentile. In other words, the Philippines has gone up from the bottom 12 percent of the countries in 1995, to the bottom 25 percent in 2010, to the top half in 2014. Isn’t that cause for celebration?

How do we compare with other countries? In 1995 Thailand and India were “cleaner” than us, and China and Indonesia (the lowest scorer) were more corrupt. In 2000 we got overtaken by China, but at least we scored the same as India. Thailand was still higher than us. Only Indonesia was below us. In 2005 we barely kept pace. Vietnam came into the picture, and it was less corrupt than we were. Indonesia was still lower than us. By 2010, however, all these countries

were considered cleaner than us. That was our nadir.

But look what has happened in the past four years: Aside from being higher in rank than half of the countries on the list, we are at par with Thailand (never since 1995) and India, and are better off than China, Indonesia and Vietnam. I don’t know about you, but that gives me great comfort. It feels good to be in the upper half for once. The daang matuwid has taken root.

There will be gnashing of teeth among the opposition, of course. But what can one do?

And of course, let us not forget that our CPI is still only 38. We still have a lot of cleaning up to do.   But it is good to know that the combined efforts of government and civil society (who are monitoring and who are yelling when things go wrong) are finally gelling.

Now for the bad news: oops, not enough space. It will have to wait for next week.

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TAGS: column, corruption, Solita Collas-Monsod, transparency international’s corruption perception index
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