CPI does not only stand for consumer price index as most economists know. Transparency International, the global coalition against corruption, has broken the conventional acronym’s significance with its Corruption Perspective Index (also, CPI). Transparency International (TI) has started as an independent organization in the early 1990’s and gained its credibility over the years. TI aims to emphasize transparency, integrity, democracy, accountability, and similar values, among the world’s different private and public sectors. The organization has a rich archive of reports, indexes, and articles about corruption and corresponding solutions. It also lobbies for transparency in the international context. Transparency International broke the early 90’s taboo by tackling corruption directly, and by turning corruption into a measurable variable.
As Transparency International defines it, corruption is the “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”, an aspect present in every part of the world, and obviously a frequent tendency in human nature. Speaking of the Arab world or the MENA region, fraudulent authorities have been almost legislating corruption. Nepotism, the inheritance of power regardless of merit, is the most flagrant aspect of corruption in this region; it has been obstructing the consistency of policy making as well as the functionality political institutions.
Over the past seven decades, power has been passed from one corrupt government to another; thus corruption has become a norm in the MENA region. In a kingdom as Jordan, a constitutional republic as Syria, or a parliamentary republic as Lebanon, kings, presidents, deputies, and ministers have been assigning their sons, brothers, and nephews to follow their corrupted path. The people of the region have been losing the notion of real politics as they follow the local news which mostly revolves around their authorial figures. In Lebanon for instance, the same family names have been reiterated in the news since the beginning of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, if not since the formation of the Lebanese state in 1943. Politicians have been focusing on their persistence in office rather than seeking their countries’ development. Having guaranteed their access to politics through their inheritance of popularity and office, most MENA politicians have tended to lack the education and knowledge about genuine politics and integral policy making. Cyclical corruption mainly depicted in continuous nepotism, has lead the people to believe in the rulers rather than in the rules themselves. Whether those rulers speak with accountability has become a secondary issue. For instance, a minister can approve an increase in the wage rate without defining how exactly it is going to be financed, as happened in Lebanon earlier this year.
Policy making in the MENA region is directly related to the interest of politicians. In most cases, laws and policies are made or amended chaotically, with no referral to relevant economic and political studies. This is not only to the disadvantage of the civil society who suffers the corrupt unchangeable consequences, but also to that of the educated elite of those countries whose knowledge gets wasted and becomes limited to mere academic papers. Nepotism in the MENA region has rendered lobbying an impossible mission, and democratic policy-making a feigned reality. If little hope is supposedly found in institutional reforms, the region’s corrupt politicians can easily stand in the way of this reform, possibly turning a so-called ministry into a bias task executive.
As French economist Guy Sorman mentions, a strong economy requires strong institutions. Corrupt governments affect the functioning of governmental institutions and possibly, private institutions as well in any given country. Seeking private benefits can interrupt a healthy resource management and distort the most basic aims of an institution. If we think of a state as a puzzle, institutions would be the little scattered pieces which require integrity to get linked together. However, the region witnesses reckless and chaotic institutional agendas, as the members in charge of some public institutions would not make one reform if it weren’t of any benefit to them in person. Transparency International suggests that one potential solution to corruption is partnerships and agreements among institutions. So the puzzle is to begin with.
The MENA region suffers from noticeable lack of political transparency. Politicians feel no urge to report to the civil society, and the civil society has been accepting this reality to a certain extent. Corruption in any government will not be ceased immediately, but it can rather be reduced step by step as is perceived by Transparency International. The first step is to recognize corruption and differentiate it as a major component of recession and disrupted economic and social development. Awareness on the issue will show citizens that corruption is not limited to bribery, but wears different familiar costumes that people have been taught to acquaint to. This awareness will show the civil societies that they should not submit to corrupt authorities, and will force politicians in turn to gradually respond to their people’s demands for transparency. Control mechanisms to track corruption are essential in this process; yet corrupt politicians are not likely to create those mechanisms. Thus the region is locked in one vicious cycle, and is in need of one big push out of the corruption trap.