The following article was written by Ali Al-Mawlawi, an Iraqi research fellow at Baghdad-based independent think tank, the Iraqi Institute for Economic Reform. It was published by openDemocracy, and is reproduced here under their Creative Commons licence.
The World Bank has described corruption as ‘the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development.” The prospects of attracting foreign investment depends on cultivating perceptions of a healthy business environment, and information on levels of corruption influences the willingness of donors to assist developing countries. On 26 October, Transparency International (TI) will unveil the results of the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). First published in 1995, the CPI has gained prominence as one of the leading indicators of cross-country corruption.
Iraq has consistently scored extremely poorly in the CPI. In 2009, it was ranked fourth from bottom out of 180 countries, ahead of only Myanmar, Afghanistan and Somalia. However, earlier this month, in a report co-authored by TI that assessed transparency in the oil, gas and minerals industries, Iraq was ranked number 13 out of 41 resource-rich countries and well ahead of its Middle Eastern neighbours. Understanding the reasons for this disparity requires a closer inspection of the CPI’s methodology and its implications for measuring perceptions of corruption in Iraq.
The Corruption Perceptions Index is an aggregate indicator that ranks countries based on the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians. TI defines corruption as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. The CPI relies on thirteen surveys from ten independent organisations, which rank countries according to overall extent of corruption (frequency and/or size of corrupt transactions). Six of the surveys are based on the opinions of local businesspeople and the remaining seven sources are assessments from both resident and non-resident country experts.