2 December 2014

Tomorrow night Transparency International will publish its 20th annual Corruption Perceptions Index.  This year the index reports on the extent to which a panel of experts assess  corruption levels in the public administration of 175 countries (two fewer than in 2013).

The favourable perception that subject matters experts have consistently held of standards of integrity in government agencies has meant that New Zealand has never slipped lower than 4th on the index (in 1997 and 1998).  In the foundation CPI New Zealand was ranked as the least corrupt of the 41 countries assessed.   That ranking was consolidated in successive years, until in 2006 New Zealand was again ranked as the least corrupt.  It has kept that status in each index over the last eight years, in some years ranking equally with others.  The characteristics of the countries being added to the index have not increased the challenge to New Zealand’s ranking.

What is interesting is that the component surveys – including those managed by Bertelsmann, the Economist, Freedom House, World Economic Forum, World Bank etc  – often rank New Zealand below the Scandinavian countries because of other commercial and governance factors but the methodology used by Transparency International seems favourable to the New Zealand situation.

The leading CPI countries all have relatively small populations – ranging from Iceland at 320,000 through to Sweden as the largest of the Scandinavians with 8.9 million (the 89th largest country by population). Denmark has the 114th largest population ( 5.6 million) followed by Finland in 115th and Singapore in 116th (both about  5.4 million), Norway in 118th (5.1 million), New Zealand as 124th largest population (at 4.5 million), and Iceland in 182nd by population. But as many of the most corrupt states are the smallest, size and governance integrity do not necessarily correlate.

A range of surveys this year continue ranking New Zealand well.  The latest relevant indicators are possibly the World Bank Doing Business survey released in October ( New Zealand overall 2nd), the Legatum Prosperity Index (down from 2nd to 3rd), TRACE Matrix (3rd), Global Peace Index (4th), Forbes Best Countries for Business ( 2nd), OECD Better Life Index and so on.

The New Zealand position is unlikely to change markedly in tomorrow’s CPI.

Similarly Denmark ranked equally least corrupt last year is unlikely to change much , with a major commercial fraud uncovered in November being too recent to influence the assessment.