AMID the flood of negative stories in media these days, the bit of good news came a few days ago from the Governance World Indicators (WGI) of the World Bank in whose survey showed that the Philippines is perceived to be less corrupt than the previous year as it improved its ranking among 200 countries.
Earlier, the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of the Berlin-based anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) showed that the Philippines’ ranking among 175 countries had significantly improved at 85th place from 94th in 2013 and 105th in 2012.
Why are these global survey ratings important to the Philippines? It is important to policy-makers because credit rating agencies use these data in evaluating the country’s credit worthiness.
Improved rankings should mean better chances of securing better terms for loans. More loans means the government can implement more projects.
To us ordinary mortals, we don’t really feel the importance of these surveys because we don’t know how these can ease our crumbling stomach. We can only hope that the loans are used to build more roads and bridges, and do not end up into the pockets of corrupt politicians and contractors.
The CPI’s latest survey showed the Philippines’ percentile ranking in the “control of corruption” increasing to 43.5 percent in 2013 from 33.5 percent in 2012.
These pieces of good news certainly create positive impact on how the Philippines is viewed from abroad, and even on Filipinos here who get to read, hear or watch most of the news about allegations of corruption and various crimes.
In 2007, expatriate businessmen in Asia rated the Philippines as the most corrupt country in Asia with a 9.4 score in a survey by Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC), in which a score of zero is the least corrupt and 10 is the most corrupt.
Singapore got the highest ranking as the least corrupt of the 13 economies surveyed, followed by Hong Kong and Japan.
The 2007 survey said the Philippines earned the “worst corrupt” perception because “people are just growing tired of the inaction and insincerity of leading officials when they promise to fight corruption.”
This observation seven years ago remains relevant today, but in a lesser magnitude.
In the country’s long history in the battle against corruption, we have in the recent past seen a former president, three senators and a number of military generals sent to jail to answer serious charges of corruption, and more high-ranking politicians and government executives are expected to follow suit once the Office of the Ombudsman could build cases strong enough to place them behind bars.
It is strange that corruption has always been on top of every politicians reform agenda presented to the electorate during the campaign season, but in the same campaign season, we see these same politicians engaged in vote buying and all sorts of deception to win votes. Once elected, the first agenda is recouping their campaign expenditures. And that’s a vicious cycle that goes on and on.
According to Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, the recent improved ranking of the Philippines in the global anti-corruption surveys show international recognition of the Aquino administration’s good-governance agenda which is vital in gaining confidence.
The country badly needs that confidence to attract more investors to bring in more money that can create more jobs for Filipinos.
Hopefully, these new jobs could help bring back the skillful and talented Filipinos who had to live far away from their families because they have found the so-called greener pastures abroad.
To me as an ordinary commuter, I could only hope and pray that I would see the impact of these positive ratings in this lifetime with better roads where traffic flows smoothly fast and efficient trains that don’t run like caterpillars and get stuck in the middle of its tracks.
So, are we really less corrupt now?
Well, we have been reading or hearing from the media more accusations of corruption these days but I believe that what matters more are the actions taken about these allegations.
As I mentioned earlier, it is only in recent history that we have seen former presidents, senators and military generals sent to jail to answer corruption charges, and face forfeiture proceedings.
It may take more than this lifetime to send just maybe 10 percent of the crooks in government, but at least we see the wheels of justice grinding albeit quite slowly.
So, are we less corrupt now? It probably is a situation where the half-full/half-empty glass perception applies. It really depends on how you view it, and on which side of the political fence you stand.