Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) launched its annual Corruption Perception Index 2015 on January 27. The index ranks countries on the basis of perceptions regarding incidence of corruption in the public sector. It assigns a score to each country surveyed, which ultimately determines its place on the overall ranking.
While the number of countries surveyed by the TI every year has varied, the corruption scorecard has enjoyed greater global ownership, being a reference point for international financial institutions, research publications and policymakers at large. This probably explains why in the run up to its launch, the CPI draws overwhelming attention of the world community and is invariably followed by some serious policy discussions and introspection.
CPI 2015 brought good news for Pakistan. Out of 168 countries surveyed by the TI, Pakistan improved its score from 29 points in 2014 to 30 points in 2015, which enabled the country to jump from the previous 50th position to 53rd thereby improving its ranking by three points in one year and overall 17 points in the three years since the PML-N government took office in 2013.
While political opponents may be tempted to dismiss the findings of the CPI 2015, it is important to put things in perspective with regard to authenticity of the survey. It is true that the Corruption Perception Index may not be the exact measurement and gauge of prevalence of corruption in the public sector, this being nearly an impossible task, it does however indicate the broad trends on whether the scale of corruption is going up or down in a society.
CPI 2015 draws on different surveys and assessments from different key institutions such as the World Economic Forum, World Bank, World Justice Project, Economist Intelligence Unit, Freedom House, Bertelsmann Foundation, African Development Bank etc. The countries must be assessed by at least three sources to appear in the CPI – namely business people, opinion surveys, and performance assessments from a group of analysts/experts. This takes the wind out of the sails of those who regard the survey as merely a collection of perceptions.
Why do I call the CPI 2015 as the good news for Pakistan? First, Pakistan is the only country in the South Asian region to have improved its score as well as ranking on the index. Other countries either scored the same or fell on the table. For example, India and Bangladesh remained unchanged, whereas Sri Lanka and Nepal suffered fell by -1 and -2 points respectively. The same trend was conspicuous in other neighbouring countries such as Iran, Turkey, China and Afghanistan.
Second, never in history did Pakistan score that well on the CPI. This is the best ever position achieved by the country to date. Starting with the ignominious position of being the second most corrupt country in 1996, Pakistan has steadily but surely departed from the beaten track to get ranked 116th out of 168 countries surveyed.
Third, it means that at a broader macro level, the country’s direction has been transformed vis-à-vis corruption. This improvement is the consequence of zero tolerance at the top against corruption. It is the manifestation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s firm commitment and resolve to eradicate corruption. One of the criteria that factored into compilation of the CPI 2015 is high level of integrity among the people in power. The fact that there is not even a single financial scandal involving the top PML-N leadership is glaring proof of their integrity.
Fourth, the CPI 2015 vis-à-vis Pakistan is a reflection of transparency and compliance with rules and regulations in the CPEC and other mega projects being implemented by the PML-N government across the country. It also explains why world-class firms are being increasingly drawn to Pakistan to invest their capital here in energy, infrastructure and other sectors. They know that the process of awarding contracts is competitive, rule-based, and transparent and they do not have to grease the palm of anyone to win contracts.
Fifth, the improved ranking is a slap in the faces of those who are in the habit of making false and unfounded accusations. CPI 2015 has exposed them before the people of Pakistan by proving them utterly wrong. The practice of opposition for the sake of political point scoring is outdated and should be shunned in the larger national interest. No one can deny the importance of constructive criticism, for this is at the heart of democratic evolution.
Sixth, instead of making the country’s standing on the CPI controversial for political vested interests, this is an occasion to feel proud as a Pakistani, for the honour belongs to the whole country. The improvement of Pakistan on the corruption scorecard is the outcome of the national effort. Therefore, it is all the more important that all the federating units take pride in this achievement.
It is amazing that the country has been on the march contrary to all the doomsday scenarios and scary projections about its future. It is a tribute to the resilience of our people whose spirit to fight has not diminished despite massive challenges and ordeals that could have broken the spirit of people elsewhere.
Today Pakistan with strong democratic credentials is an emerging success story. Our judiciary is completely independent and proactive. Our media has emerged as the fourth pillar of the state, fiercely asserting its independence and subjecting the government to scrutiny. Our citizenry in general and civil society organisations, in particular, are fully empowered and aware of their responsibilities as agent of change. There is a complete consensus across all elements of national power that participatory democracy is our future. Hence there is a renewed emphasis on its sustainability and continuity.
This is, however, not to turn a blind eye to our share of problems. There is no denying the prevalence of corruption at the functional level where the common man gets affected the most. Social evils such as nepotism, inequality, violation of merit, corruption, and bribery threaten our social fabric. Their continued presence undermines the social contract between the state and its citizenry. Lethargy and inaction are not an option anymore.
However, the journey has just begun in the right direction. The road ahead may be arduous and bumpy but there is a clear leadership vision to purge Pakistan of corruption and put it on the path of socio-economic development. CPI 2015 shows us that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The writer is the chief minister of Punjab. Social media: facebook.com/shehbazsharif
Keywords: Economics , Economic needs , Economic aspects , Economic issues , Financial issues , Economic problems , Poverty alleviation , World Bank , Economic survey , Bertelsmann Foundation , African Development Bank , CPI , PML-N