On Wednesday Transparency International, a nonprofit organization that seeks to highlight global corruption and fight against it, released their rankings of the cleanest and most corrupt governments in the world. New Zealand took the top sport as the government that was most free of corruption, followed by Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Singapore, Norway, the Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland, and Canada. These countries were rated the best at enforcing anti-corruption laws, providing free access to government information, and a number of other criteria related to corruption. Receiving the not so pleasant distinction of ranking at the bottom of the list were Somalia and North Korea, with Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan coming in just ahead of them.
What is immediately striking about the list is the security situations of each of the countries at the top and at the bottom. All of the countries rated as being the least corrupt are in relatively secure and peaceful international positions. Whether it is the European countries, those in the Pacific basin, or Canada, each is located in an area that is relatively stabile and without imminent and observable threats to their survival. These are areas that are not watching revolutions in their neighbors’ areas or are faced with significant domestic upheaval.
The opposite is true though of the countries at the bottom of the list. They can be characterized as being far more insecure, with North Korea and Myanmar acting as suspicious, authoritarian regimes, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Sudan plagued with insurgencies, wars, and fighting within their borders, and Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan living in the growing shadow of Russia and concerned with developments in Iran and Afghanistan.
What is interesting is to compare the rankings on the corruption list and the CIA rankings by military expenditures as a percentage of GDP. The ranking by military expenditure of those countries deemed as being the least corrupt is an average of 89.4 (out of 172) with an average of 1.93% of their GDP spent on the military. The average ranking of the countries labeled as being the most corrupt is 64.8, with an expenditure of 2.58% of GDP. (North Korea and Afghanistan were not ranked by the CIA because of a lack of data). If you take out Somalia which has a very weak government and has had difficulty maintaining control of its territory, the average ranking by military spending rises to 45.25 with an expenditure of 3% of GDP.
While there are many factors that need to be considered in addition to those listed here and without getting into a deeper statistical analysis, there does seem to be a connection of sorts between corruption and a country’s security situation, as well as a connection between corruption and military expenditures. Is there an inherent relationship between security, military spending, and dishonesty? Are government contracts and dishonest officials more prevalent in insecure environments? Is there just a culture of corruption in less secure nations? I am not sure, but it is an interesting thought to consider.
In case you were wondering, the United States ranks as the 24th cleanest country and as the 24th in military spending as a percentage of GDP.