Transparency International And The Bigger Picture

It is no longer news that Transparency International’s recently published rankings for 2017 show that Nigeria has plummeted several places to 146th out of a total of 180 countries. The perception of corruption in Nigeria has apparently worsened under the current administration. As expected, the President’s media assistants and advisers have disputed the ranking, citing many things which, to their minds, should have resulted in Nigeria climbing up rather than tumbling down the corruption ladder.

Not too long ago, the World Bank published its Doing Business rankings for 2018. In that list, also of 190 countries, Nigeria ranked 145th. The near-identical positions made me wonder if it the case was the same for other countries, and if there was a link between corruption, transparency, easy of doing business and prosperity.

A comparison of the top 20 countries on the CPI and DB indices (i.e. the least corrupt and easiest to do business in) shows that 13 countries appear in both. New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Great Britain, Norway, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, USA, Finland and Ireland.

Is there a correlation between corruption and other indices of living? Let us look at maternal mortality rates – the number of babies that die, on the average, for every 100,000 live births – in these countries. Of these 13 countries, Finland has the lowest, with only 3 deaths per 100,000 live births. Ireland has 8. Norway has 5. The United States is the worst of the selection, with 14. The figure for Nigeria is 814.

Where do these 13 countries (shall we call them the G13?) feature on UNESCO’s literacy index? In Nigeria, the overall literacy rate is 59.6%, with 69.2% for men and 49.7% for women. UNESCO does not report the rates for our G13 (and several other countries, just to be clear) because literacy has been resolved in those countries.

And how about life expectancy at birth? The average in our G13, is just above 80 years. It’s 82 years in Australia, Sweden and Canada; 81 in Norway and New Zealand. 80 in Germany, Finland, Denmark and the United Kingdom. In Nigeria, life expectancy at birth is 52 years, putting the country in 194th position out of 201 in the World Health Organisation’s ranking of 2015.

The point, for the President and his aides, is that it is not really about them. Just as it was not really about the Inspector General of Police when his force was ranked the worst in the world in another recent publication. The point is that, for the people of a country, the type of government that those in office choose to operate determines the kind of lives the citizens of that country live.

Governments that insist on secrecy cannot but encourage corruption. Governments that bristle at every negative press clipping cannot but be one step away from muzzling both traditional and social media. It may be coincidental, with correlation not necessarily meaning causation, but the people who live under these opaque and repressive governments will, on the average, live shorter lives than their counterparts in many other places. A report discussed on the 3rd of January 2018 in a British newspaper, revealed that patients in Africa are twice as likely to die after an operation than the global average “despite generally being younger, healthier and the surgery they are undergoing being more minor.” Yet, African doctors are being re-licensed to practice abroad in droves and avoid bringing this statistic of incompetency with them.

Rather than nitpick about Transparency International not acknowledging whatever it is this administration thinks it has done to fight corruption, our government needs to take a step back and realise that the CPI is just another measure confirming how unremarkable we truly are, how herculean the task at hand is and how urgently the governing class must set out to address these issues.

For context, around Nigeria on the CPI are Mauritania, Guinea, Uganda, Nicaragua, Mozambique. On the Doing Business ranking, it’s Grenada, Mali, Niger, Gambia, Pakistan, Mauritania, Burkina Faso. Life expectancy at birth, it’s Somalia, Cameroon, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Chad. Again, correlation may not mean causation, but somehow, Nigeria seems to be the child that insists on ‘following bad gang’ despite his parents’ warning. What we need to do, rather than being upset at each new published ranking, is to focus instead on trying to change the company we keep!

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