In a recent report, Transparency International ranked Iceland the 7th least corrupt country in the world, but a closer look at their methodology raises questions about the ranking’s accuracy.
The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries on their level of corruption based on how they rate under a series of assessments conducted by other organizations. However, not every country is given the same number of assessments, nor even the same kind. This can be discovered simply by reading TI’s “CPI Table and sources” download (.xls file). Iceland received its #7 ranking based on the results of five out of a possible 13 assessments. The Grapevine looked closer at these assessments, and found the following:
The first one, the The Economist Intelligence Unit, helps, according to their home page, “executives make informed business decisions through dependable intelligence delivered online, in print, in customised research as well as through conferences and peer interchange.”
The second assessment, the World Competitiveness Report of the Institute for Management Development, is conducted by a company which assesses the “competitiveness” of nations.
The third assessment, the Merchant International Group, describes itself as “a strategic research and corporate intelligence company dedicated to providing a unique range of support services to corporate and private clients in both established and emerging markets.”
The fourth assessment, the Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum, provides a comprehensive study of the strength of a nation’s economy.
The fifth and final assessment, Global Insight, says that it “provides the most comprehensive economic, financial, and political coverage available from any source to support planning and decision making, [u]sing a unique combination of expertise, models, data, and software within a common analytical framework.”
Putting aside the fact that Iceland achieved its low-corruption ranking based on only five assessments – less than half of the ones available – what these few assessments seem to have in common is they primarily measure economic strength and vigor.
While it is certainly true that very corrupt countries tend to be very poor, it does not necessarily follow that if a country is not very poor, that it is also not corrupt. These assessments also do not focus on levels of social immobility, nor nepotism, nor the strength of the oligarchy – all of which are arguably very prominent aspects of Icelandic living, and are most certainly more accurate measurements of how corrupt a country is, rather than how “economically competitive” the country is with other nations.
The results should not come as any surprise, though, seeing as how Grapevine found similar results in 2005, when Transparency International ranked Iceland the least corrupt country in the world – at a time when newly privatized banks had recently been sold to family members of politicians responsible for privatizing the banks in the first place.