Up or down?

It took me some time to make sense of ABS-CBN News Online’s Reuters-based story on Philippine corruption.

The Philippines ranked 36th among the world’s most corrupt nations, down from last year’s ranking of 43, according to the latest Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index for 2005 published Tuesday.

That lead paragraph left me wondering what exactly "down" meant: Did our ranking improve? As it turns out, the CPI that is used to rank global perceptions of corruption is inverse: The lower the number, the worse you are. But the world rankings are the opposite: The higher the number, the more corrupt you are. What the number "36" is is not the actual rank, as determined by Transparency International; it is the number as computed from the bottom of the list.

(I trust, as Robert Bolt has his Thomas More say, I have made myself obscure?)

According to the story, in the 2005 CPI, the Philippines is No. 124. Since the list includes a total of 159 countries, that makes the country the 36th most corrupt in the world.

The story also says that, in the 2004 CPI, the Philippines was No. 102. Actually, a quick check with the actual table (which I needed to do, because some of the 2004 numbers in the story did not add up) will show that, strictly speaking, the country was actually No. 104, out of 146. That made the Philippines the 43rd most corrupt country in the world, based on corruption perceptions.

In other words, the country’s position deteriorated.

To be sure, it is more accurate to state that the Philippines was not 124th on the list, but that it shared 117th place with eight other countries: Afghanistan, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, Libya, Nepal, and Uganda. But where’s the fun in that?

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Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

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