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Transparency’s Opacity

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The results from Transparency International’s “National Corruption Perception Survey 2010″ are being touted in the media as an infallible judgment on the corruption of the ANP led Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, while at the same time they are taken as proof of the honesty of Punjab’s PML-N led Government. One would be tempted to accept this judgment given the reputation and stature of Transparency International, but a look into the details of the survey reveals inconsistencies that leave a lot to be desired. These inconsistencies need to be taken into account by media pundits and politicians before any conclusions are made.

One has to give credit to Transparency International for carrying out this exercise for the fourth time; i.e. 2002, 2006, 2009 and now this one in 2010. Each survey had a larger sample size than its predecessor, thus indicating a higher scope as well as coverage. The 2009 and 2010 surveys differ from the other two when it comes to the provincial sample size. Both in 2002 and 2005 the sample size for each province was somewhat reflective of its overall population proportion in Pakistan.  But in 2009 and 2010, each province was awarded the same sample size i.e. 1300.

A peculiarity about the sample selected from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as well as Punjab was their higher monthly income. For both provinces, more than 60% of the survey respondents fell into the monthly income range of Rs. 16,000 and above, which was higher than that for Sindh and Baluchistan. This higher income level of the sample from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is further validated by their ownership of cars: 550 respondents from the province reported to owning a car, compared to 398 from Punjab, 383 from Sindh, and 295 from Baluchistan.

Considering the financially richer sample from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, one would expect that their bribery expenses be also higher than those for other provinces. After all, it is a common observation that a higher financial status raises higher expectations from prying officials. For instance, tax evasion related to a higher income would be at a higher bribe, similarly a violating car driver would be expected to pay a higher bribe than a violating motorcyclist.

But when one looks at the actual bribery expenses as detailed on page 62 of the report, the sample from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa reported the “lowest” total bribery expenses. If one is to divide the total reported expenses of each province by the sample size i.e. 1300, then we get the following measures of average expenditure on bribery for each province: Punjab Rs. 17,791, Sindh Rs. 16,885, Baluchistan Rs. 3,942 while Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa showing the lowest at Rs. 3,528.

This presents a very perplexing situation, the survey clearly indicates that the expenditures of a relatively richer sample in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa pays a far less amount in bribes than its comparable (income wise) sample from Punjab. This, if anything, reflects that there is a relative “lack” of corruption in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa rather than the other way round.

So then what prompted this survey to declare the present Government of ANP as the most corrupt of all provincial governments in Pakistan? The answer lies in a new question that was introduced to the survey this year. In this question the respondents were asked:  “Which Provincial Government was cleaner, the present (2008-10) or the past?” If one is to rephrase this question in the context of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, then it would mean: which Provincial Government was more corrupt, the ANP or the MMA? 78% of the respondents declared ANP to be more corrupt than the MMA.

This particular question is a verdict on a political party, and as an unqualified value judgment, it is bound to reflect the political leanings of each respondent. Given the introduction of this new question, Transparency International should have been extra careful in making sure that the sample from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or for that matter from any other province is a close representation of the political map of the Province.

But one is surprised to see that the four cities selected from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are: Peshawar and all the urban centers of Hazara Division, i.e. Mansehra, Abbotabad, and Haripur. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge about the political history of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa would not be surprised by the overwhelming verdict against ANP from this sample. The recent upheaval about the Pakhtunkhwa issue in Hazara Division is an indication of the unpopularity of ANP in that area. If the respondents were equally distributed between the four cities then the three cities of Hazara Division would constitute 75% of the sample size, almost the same as the respondents who declared ANP to be more corrupt than the MMA. Given these facts, the selected sample from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is very unlikely to be truly representative of the political map of the Province, and thus is very unlikely to give an unbiased assessment.

It should also be mentioned that the choice of cities in this survey takes a departure from the norms adopted in the previous two surveys. These deviations are specifically peculiar when it comes to Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, i.e. the “cleanest” and the “dirtiest” provinces.

A review of the cities selected in the earlier surveys would be useful here, the 2002 survey focused on the Provincial Capitals for all the provinces except Punjab for which both Lahore as well as Multan was chosen. The 2006 survey chose Rawalpindi and Faisalabad for Punjab while Peshawar and Nowshera for the former NWFP. The 2010 survey had the room to be more diversified, as it aimed to choose 5 cities from each province. Interestingly the report, on page number 14 lists only 4 cities from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa i.e. Peshawar, Mansehra, Haripur and Abbotabad. Whether the survey was only carried out in 4 cities or the 5th one was missed out as a typo is not clear from going through the report. Also dubious is the selection for Punjab, which is; Lahore, Sialkot, Daska, Gujranwala, and Chakwal. These are all areas where PML-N showed a very strong electoral performance in the 2008 election. Contrary to the 2002 survey, where Multan was chosen along with Lahore to measure perceptions, the 2010 survey completely ignores Southern Punjab.

The Corruption Perceptions Survey 2010, very blatantly asked about the corruption perceptions surrounding ANP and PML-N. For ANP it did that mostly in areas where the party is very unlikely to even field a candidate while for PML-N it did the same in areas that are its historical strongholds. The results then should not be portrayed as an objective assessment or a ranking for that matter.

There is ample proof about the partiality inherent in this survey, whether this was done by error or design, in both cases Transparency International needs to come clean on this issue. The last thing it wants is to be used as a tool in the domestic politics of Pakistan.

An edited version appeared in The News on June 9th 2010

Written by Imran Khan

June 9, 2010 at 12:25 pm

One Response

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  1. […] An anti ANP verdict from the Hazara division was inevitable, and this was presented as the perception of the whole province. This result was then used extensively in the media to label ANP’s government as the most corrupt. I wrote a more detailed piece on TI’s methodology for its 2010 survey on these pages. (9th June 2010) […]

    Watan Ya Kafan | I Opyne

    April 27, 2013 at 5:34 am


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