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How Corrupt is Costa Rica?

Costa Rica News – Latin America has long had a reputation for corruption in its civic and political life, but depending on where you live, that might be changing.  Transparency International has just released its Corruption Perceptions Index 2013, which measure the degree to which citizens around the world regard the countries they live in as corrupt (not, it should be noted, a measure of how corrupt countries are in reality). 

corruption-perception-indexThe Index ranks 177 countries and territories on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).  Denmark and New Zealand come out on top for the cleanest, with North Korea, Afghanistan and Somalia bringing up the rear for the highest perceived levels of corruption.  Latin American countries are all over the scale – Uruguay is the 19th cleanest, tied with the United States, while Haiti, with the highest levels of perceived corruption, ranks 163 out of the 177.

Other countries which rank closer to the “highly corrupt” end of the scale, according to the citizens who live there, are Venezuela (160th place), Paraguay (150th), Honduras (140th), Guyana (136th), Nicaragua (127th), Guatemala and the Dominican Republic (tied for 123rd). On the “cleaner” end, apart from Uruguay, ranks Chile at number 22 and Costa Rica at 29 out of the 177 countries ranked.

The Index, says Transparency International, “serves as a reminder that the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery continue to ravage societies around the world.” The NGO concludes that the world “urgently needs a renewed effort to crack down on money laundering, clean up political finance, pursue the return of stolen assets and build more transparent public institutions.”

Some say there’s reason to doubt the rankings. One problem, according to Alex Cobham, a fellow at the Center for Global Development, has to do with the NGO’s reliance on a small group of experts and business people for their measurements of populations’ perceptions.

Cobham says that means it “embeds a powerful and misleading elite bias in popular perceptions of corruption”, adding in an article for Foreign Policy that “the index corrupts perceptions to the extent that it’s hard to see a justification for its continuing publication.”

By David Iaconangelo,

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