Corruption index: how to discredit a country

This morning Transparency International released the Corruption Perception Index.

The Eurispes has never intended to underestimate the phenomenon of corruption. At the same time, it has never shared simplistic conclusions such as those underlying the now well-known Perception Index.

The Corruption Perception Index confirms an unflattering position for Italy: according to the NGO, our country is ranked 52nd out of 180 and, even though it maintains the score (53) assigned to it in the 2019 edition, it would lose one position this year.

We cannot watch in silence as this is yet another manifestation of distancing from reality.

Many have written, commented, debated and argued about the extent of corruption in our country. Some have even gone so far as to provide economic quantities to measure corruption, indicating figures that are more than alarming, impossible and indemonstrable on a scientific level.

Such bold experiments, beyond their appropriateness and reliability, have however contributed to the construction or, at least, to the strengthening of Italy’s image as a corrupt country, indeed among the most corrupt countries ever.

The result of this vulgata, which is as incorrect as it is dangerous, has been the progressive lowering of the appeal of our country and its main economic players on the entrepreneurial and financial level, with serious repercussions in terms of growth and economic and employment development.

This is all the more serious at this very difficult time. How can we think of a post-Covid-19 economic recovery and a secure recovery if we tolerate such a reconstruction of the reality of our institutions?

The internal front of those who portray Italy as the cradle of malfeasance has in fact all too often been joined – and it could only be so – by international players, the protagonists of a veritable “reputational engineering” of perception indices, which base rankings and merit rankings of countries on the subjective perception of corruption alone.

Eurispes has always investigated the most significant themes of social reality and, most recently, has pioneered the field of combating the practices of media transfiguration of reality.

Confronted with the issue of the “measurement of corruption”, which is essentially based only on perceptual indices, the Institute has sought to investigate the subject from a scientific point of view, reaching conclusions that are not taken for granted.

The Transparency International Index is now the subject of serious criticism worldwide.

The United Nations made it the subject of a Resolution of the Conference of States Parties at its last global meeting in Abu Dhabi in December 2019.

The Council of Europe’s Action Group against Corruption confirms this. The OECD has made it a battle of principle.

Yet Transparency International continues to publish this index, punctually, year after year, without even specifying on what methodology exactly it is based (see, for example, what was published to accompany the launch of today’s ranking).

And ours is not a manifestation of defence of the Nation or of parochial pride to react to the constant depressing assessments of Italy in terms of corruption.

Our intention is always and only that of restoring scientific dignity to the debate, urging consciences on the paradox of perception indices and on the perverse effects that some evaluations may entail.

We hold a few points firm:

a) the more corruption is fought, as is the case in Italy, the more perceptible it becomes. If corruption is not combated by favouring a controlled tolerance of illicit phenomena as an attitude of economic governance entrusted in an extreme way to liberalism and markets, the technique of “sweeping the dust under the carpet” is practised: all this escapes perception;

b) perceptual measurement indices, such as Transparency International’s CPI, take no account whatsoever of institutional data, i.e. they do not assess the countermeasures adopted at institutional and regulatory level in the countries being rated (e.g. the mandatory nature of criminal prosecutions, the independence of the Public Prosecutor’s Office from the Executive, the freedom of the press in relation to the facts of justice, etc.);

c) not only is the Index itself under discussion, but the use that is made of it at an international level, given the negative effects of a high CPI on the economy and on the reliability of the systems: not taking into consideration the institutional data is extremely penalizing for Countries like ours, which certainly do not have attitudes of tolerance or limited interventionism on the criminal phenomena;

d) Italy is certainly negatively characterised by the pathological phenomena of organised crime and corruption; however, there exists an anti-corruption and anti-mafia Italy that has no equal at international level.

The National Anti-Mafia and Anti-Terrorism Directorate, in its field of intervention, is a global model. And we would like to see this indicator included in the evaluation plan.

In the same way, we would like to see an increase in the capacity for self-criticism of other countries less committed than ours to the prevention and repression of corruption, which Transparency International placed at the top of this year’s list.

Talking about the functionality and efficiency of our law enforcement authorities and the resilience of the Italian legislative system means presenting the best of the country and thus counteracting the reputational repercussions of a hyper evaluation of the Perceptual Index.

The so-called “anti-corruption” law, for example, has already been defined as a state-of-the-art model in the first international comments.

Is it possible that, instead of pushing perception towards a more benevolent view, it had no influence on public opinion? The 2020 CPI even marks a slowdown in the positive trend that had seen Italy gain a good 11 points from 2012 to 2019.

And it is not known why.

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