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WB: Corruption in RP worst in East Asia

By Doris Dumlao
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:03:00 06/25/2008

Filed Under: Graft & Corruption, Government, Research, Governance

MANILA, Philippines -- Corruption in the Philippines is perceived to be the worst among East Asia?s leading economies and the country has sunk even lower among those seen to be lagging in governance reforms, a World Bank study suggested.

The bank?s 2008 Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI), based on new research released Tuesday, showed that many developing countries were making important gains in controlling corruption, and some even matched rich-country performance in overall governance measures.

The Philippines, however, was not among them.

The country is now at the bottom of the list of East Asia?s 10 largest economies when it comes to control of corruption, edged out by Indonesia which scored the worst in the region in the previous year?s survey.

Out of the bottom

Indonesia this year pulled itself out of the world?s bottom 25 percent measured in terms of perceived corruption incidence.

The Philippines? percentile rank for corruption, one of the six key governance indicators used in the research, fell to 22 percent, from 23 percent last year.

Percentile rank indicates the percentage of the 212 countries studied that rate below the rank of a specific country. Higher values would indicate better governance ratings. Thus, the Philippines only ranks higher than 22 percent of the countries surveyed.

The index on control of corruption was defined by the study as ?the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as capture of the state by elites and private interests.?

Best performers

The best performers in the region were Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea. All its other major Southeast Asian neighbors and China scored better than the Philippines.

Of the six governance indicators, the Philippines scored lowest -- below the 25 percentile -- in ?control of corruption? and ?political stability.?

It scored highest in ?government effectiveness? and ?regulatory quality,? where its percentage rank was above 50 percent.

Aside from control of corruption, the five other governance indicators used in the study were: voice and accountability (the extent to which a country?s citizens are able to participate in selecting their government, as well as freedom of expression, freedom of association and a free media); political stability and absence of violence/terrorism (the likelihood that the government will be destabilized by unconstitutional or violent means, including terrorism); government effectiveness (the quality of public services, the capacity of the civil service and its independence from political pressures, and the quality of policy formulation); regulatory quality (the ability of the government to provide sound policies and regulations that enable and promote private sector development); and rule of law (the extent to which agents have confidence in and abide by the rules of society, including the quality of contract enforcement and property rights, the police, and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence).

Seventh update

This year?s study is the seventh update of the WGI, a decade-long effort started in 1996 to build and update the most comprehensive cross-country set of governance indicators currently available.

The WGI is used by policymakers and civil society groups worldwide to assess governance challenges and monitor reforms, and by scholars researching the causes and consequences of good governance.

Daniel Kaufmann, co-author of the report and director of governance at the World Bank Institute, said the data showed a large variation in performance across countries, and even among neighbors within each continent.

?Progress reflects reforms in those countries where political leaders, policymakers, civil society and the private sector view good governance and corruption control as crucial for sustained and shared growth,? Kaufmann said.

Over a dozen emerging countries, including Slovenia, Chile, Botswana, Estonia, Uruguay, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Mauritius, and Costa Rica, scored higher on key governance indicators than industrialized countries such as Greece or Italy. In many cases, the differences were noted to be statistically significant.

Worldwide respondents

Coinciding with countries that have done well, a similar number have experienced deterioration in several governance dimensions, including Zimbabwe, Cote d?Ivoire, Belarus, Eritrea and Venezuela.

This year?s WGI covered 212 countries and territories, drawing on 35 different data sources to capture the views of tens of thousands of survey respondents worldwide, as well as thousands of experts in survey institutes, think tanks, nongovernment organizations and international organizations.

Research over the past decade showed that improved governance could boost development, and not the other way around. When governance is improved by one standard deviation, infant mortality declines by two-thirds and incomes rise about three-fold in the long run, the WGI said.

?Until the mid-1990s, I did not think that governance could be measured. The Worldwide Governance Indicators have shown me otherwise,? said Shlomo Yitzhaki, director of Israel?s Central Bureau of Statistics and Professor of Economics at the Hebrew University.

?It constitutes the state of the art on how to build periodic governance indicators which can be a crucial tool for policy analysts and decision-makers benchmarking their countries. It definitely sets a standard for transparency in data,? said Yitzhaki.

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