money under the table corruption 311.
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Every year at this time the international anti-corruption NGO Transparency
International publishes its Corruption Perceptions Index. The index ranks almost
200 countries based on a composite of corruption measures compiled by a variety
of other organizations, public and proprietary.
The publication serves as
an annual opportunity to consider how Israel fares, and how it ranks, in its
public sector ethics. It is inappropriate to attach too much importance to
year-to-year fluctuations in Israel’s score, but it is appropriate to take
advantage of this opportunity and see what the report teaches us.
year Israel came in at number 30 in the world; this year it is No. 36, with a
score of 5.8 out of 10. At the top of the scale are New Zealand (9.5), Denmark
and Finland (both 9.4); at the bottom are Somalia and North Korea (each with a
score of 1).
It is impossible to state with confidence that Israel is
less corrupt than nearby Malta (No. 39) or more corrupt than nearby Portugal
(No. 32), but it is a fair bet that there is more corruption here than in France
(No. 23, score 7) and less than in Italy (No. 69, score 3.9). The
scale is far from precise, but it is also far from useless.
regarding the drop from No. 30 to No. 36. It is not certain that Israel has
worse public-sector ethics this year than last year, but it is a safe bet that
it did not improve significantly and that we are not getting closer to New
Zealand and Denmark.
Particularly worrisome are two of the subcategories
in which Israel’s score fell significantly: the Global Insight country risk
rating and the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report scale. The
reason is that these questions do not relate so much to broad overall
impressions; rather, they discuss detailed questions: “The likelihood of
encountering corrupt officials, ranging from petty bureaucratic corruption to
grand political corruption,” and the score for “Undocumented extra payments or
bribes connected with 1) exports and imports, 2) public utilities, 3)tax
collection, 4) public contracts and 5) judicial decisions are common/never
The publication of the Transparency International index should
not be an occasion for despair or breast-beating; Israel’s score still places it
squarely within the ranks of civilized First World countries. But it is
certainly an appropriate occasion for introspection and an attempt to diagnose
the specific public-sector ills that are keeping Israel from the clean,
high-functioning public sectors of the leading countries on the TI
Asher Meir is research director at the
Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, an independent institute in the Jerusalem