Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Poland continues its progress in cleaning up corruption

For the eighth successive year, Poland has been judged by Transparency International to be progressing in terms of cleaning up corruption. In this year's Corruption Perception Index published this morning, Poland is given a score of 60 out of 100, an advance on last year's score of 58. What's more, Poland has leapfrogged Slovenia and is now the second-least corrupt ex-communist country after Estonia.

Poland is ranked 38th out of 175 countries surveyed - last year it came 41st out of 174 countries. This is a huge advance on the nadir year of 2005, when it came 70th out of 158 countries.

Below: Poland's score tracked over the years, since the first Corruption Perception Index was published in 1996. Notice how the situation deteriorated when the former-communist SLD party was in power (it got no better under the AWS government - when its placemen, known at the time by the acronym 'TKM*', got their snouts in the trough).

The fact that Poland has been consistently improving in this regard is probably the biggest single benefit the country has enjoyed since joining the EU - bigger than all the roads and all the farmers' subsidies put together. For it reflects a change in the mindset from homo sovieticus, the shake-down model that's still all-to-evident across Poland's eastern borders, where opaque laws mean that no entrepreneur can possibly stay legal and make a profit. So they conduct business on the basis of kick-backs to ensure they stay in favour with the authorities. This creates a rent-seeking class of parasitical bureaucrats who destroy value and leech the wealth generated by the dynamic and hard-working members of society.

Below: corruption levels compared across countries touched by communism. Note how EU membership (and shorter exposure to communism) plays a difference.

The changed mindset in Poland is evident when talking to people working in government (at whatever level) under the age of 35 or so; there is a commitment to public service and a willingness to get things done that was not there a decade ago. I'm generalising of course, but things are visibly, undeniably better than they were. It's like comparing mid-February to late-March.

There's a long way to go until Poland basks in the standards of transparency enjoyed by countries such as Denmark or New Zealand. Poland must not sit back complacently. Having made it into the Top 40, Poland's citizens, government and businesses alike must continually press for a better ranking.

Looking down the full list of 175 countries, its obvious that corruption = poverty = corruption; clean countries enjoy higher standards of living. No political party, left or right, can deny that.

And which is the most corrupt country in the European Union? No, it's not an ex-communist nation. It is Greece, cradle of democracy.

* TKM - roughly translated as 'now it's our f***ing turn. The party faithful from the various factions that came together to form AWS were rewarded by middle- and senior-ranking posts in government departments and agencies. Rather than smash the old system and replace it with a purely professional, non-party political civil service, AWS meekly perpetuated the bad old ways. As a result, change has come slower than it could have done.

1 comment:

Marcin said...

TKM is a roughly a spoils system, as explained at Wikipedia.
Thanx to the US. As almost every junk imported from there, the same 'patronage' habits we've diffused.

"Before March 8, 1831, moderation had prevailed in the transfer of political power from one presidency to another. President Andrew Jackson's inauguration signaled a sharp departure from past presidencies. An unruly mob of office seekers made something of a shambles of the March inauguration, and though some tried to explain this as democratic enthusiasm, the real truth was Jackson supporters had been lavished with promises of positions in return for political support. These promises were honored by an astonishing number of removals after Jackson assumed power. Fully 919 officials were removed from government positions, amounting to nearly 10 percent of all government postings. The Jackson administration attempted to explain this unprecedented purge as reform, or constructive turnover, aimed at creating a more efficient system where the chain of command of public employees all obeyed the higher entities of government. The hardest changed organization within the federal government proved to be the post office. The post office was the largest department in the federal government, and had even more personnel than the war department. In one year 423 postmasters were deprived of their positions, most with extensive records of good service."
So, how to not judge, that the Americans aren't innovators?