18 November 2009

We're Number 35! We're Number 35!

I have got to take a look at this.

Transparency International has just released its 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The CPI score indicates the perceived level of public-sector corruption in a country/territory, based on up to 13 surveys. You can read about the methodology here. (Why is the methodology important? Because it avoids the Internet Society of Puerto Rico syndrome of "Yanking Numbers Out of One's Ass.")

Who were the top finishers, the world leaders in confidence and low levels of corruption? The Top 10 are: New Zealand, Denmark, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Australia, Canada and Iceland. (The country's bankrupt, but honest.)

Uh, where did the U.S. of part of A. finish? 19th, after an England-Japan tie.

And Us? We're Number 35! 

A few remarks: There's a good number of Nordic countries there in the Top 10, with extensive social welfare political structures, based on very high (50+%) taxation and highly-regulated economies. Does it mean these systems are better? Not really, as 5 of the other six (Singapore being the exception) are "open" democracies with less taxation, although as noted, Iceland is practically broke. (But they will eat healthier now.)

Here's the 2009 Top 10 in the Competitiveness Index: Switzerland, U.S., Singapore, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Canada and Netherlands. Notice that 7 of these are also in the Top 10 of the CPI list. You could say there's a higher correlation between lack of corruption and competitivenss than there is to political structure and competitiveness. Especially if you note that the three "Not Top 10" on the CPI list (Germany ranked 14th) are now-traditional powerhouse economies combining natural resources and industrialization to very high degrees, whereas the smaller economies are competitive largely because they are more transparent.

So the lesson for Us is: Transparency is a distinct, measurable and thus tangible competitive advantage. Let Me make it clear to the Fools in terms they can understand: Less corruption means more money for all of Us.

I just lost them. Big whoop.

Note that Puerto Rico only has 4 of the 13 surveys upon which to base the end result on. Why only 4? The other 9 didn't get a big enough bribe to fill in lies.

Or not. Just saying.

But in the wake of Manny Pacquiao's dismantling of Our Miguel Cotto, We can take up the cry of "We're Number 35! We're Number 35!" and take heart in the fact that We were tied for 36th last year.


The Jenius Has Spoken.


The Insider said...

We always talk about Statehood (yay vs. nay). Well I'm officially pitching Provincehood today. If Puerto Rico is interested in becoming Canada's most southern province, then I'll put in a call to Stephen.

Then you don't have to suffer being #35 - but your boxing hopes are probably still better off with a post-beat-down Cotto than the Snowbird's "Jean Pascal" (who?).

What say you?

Ok, ok... just whisper it so your corrupt government can't hear you... Shhhhhssshhh.

Step 1. Canadian Armed Forces arrived with brooms and trash bags.

Step 2. Fortuno is exiled as the Count of Monti-Vieques (but we allow him to fire another 20% of the government before he goes).

Step 3. Canadian Animal Protection crews take over this joint:
Cabo Rojo's Pet Sematary?

Yes, yes. My first shameless plug. But after all, I am offering to put in a good word for you in a country with lots of natural resources. ;)


(Choose your own adventure)

Gil C. Schmidt said...

Insider, laughed out loud! Reminds of My Dad who in the late 70s/early 80s would urge statehooders to seek Japanese "statehood".

You think Canada would take Us? We can offer a year-round tropical vacation spot and with a little bit of help, We could even make hockey a "winter" sport in Aibonito or Adjuntas.

As for the plug, good job! You're doing some excellent reporting there and that's key to making Our communities better, even from afar. Thanks!

The Insider said...

Yes - Canada would love to take you guys, after some minor housekeeping. You see Canadians love the Dominican Republic and Cuba, but Puerto Rico never really makes it onto their radar. :)

I did my best to bring a whole bunch of them to Cabo Rojo... but I'm scared to tell them the current state of Boqueron beach where I took so many of them to swim. Oops!

There is one critical deal breaker though. Here it is:

The ice skating arena in Aguadilla absolutely has to get (a) a skate sharpener and (b) a Zamboni.

Oh - and it wouldn't hurt to stock a few cold Molson Canadian next to the Medalla. :)

Anonymous said...

It is a pity that our governors and officials lack intellectual maturity. They would probably get the jokes here! jejeje. But seriously, keep up the good work! Maybe some day your blogs would spark the interest of smart, savvy and current politicians who would be interested in being prompted by The People! ;)

Pax said...

Wow... your blog is a bit difficult to read. All the sarcastic negativity makes the blog sound like the incessant and annoying sound of a screeching blackboard. I've only just started reading this so maybe I'm missing something...

I haven't been on the island long but have noted a trend here that I find disconcerting - that is... Puerto Ricans attacking Puerto Ricans. Sure... some of it is political. Some... related to services. Others... related to neighbors. Still more related to Puerto Ricans in general. I hear it all the time and my attempts to discuss and share some of the positive things about the Island generally falls on deaf ears.

I have to admit that I'm not much of a traveler so can't relate this negative attitude to those of other Latin-American countries directly. Indirectly, however, after many discussions with folks from other countries south of the border, I hear the same negativity about where they're from. Maybe it's a Latin thing.

I wonder whether this has always been the case. Perhaps the _rapid_ shift from a mostly rural and agrarian society to a conglomeration of many small modern towns is the reason. Population issues, employment problems... material wealth (homes, cars)... The haves and the haves nots - living together... ??? I don't know.

I write about this negativity because it has a way of effecting a person's objectivity in everything they do and they unknowingly become part of the problem.

As an fyi... Iceland (rated at 8) filled in 4 surveys. Barbados (20) filled 4. Saint Lucia (22) filled 3. Cyrpus (27) filled 4. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (31) filled 3. Dominca (34) filled 3. 6 filled surveys out of 13 was a very common number.

Despite the surveys filled, Transparency.com tells us "The CPI is based on 13 independent surveys. However, *not* all surveys *include* all countries." and "we can be 90% confident that the true score for this country lies within this range [confidence score]".

So no... it had nothing to do with bribery in this case.

Gil C. Schmidt said...

I've heard about the negativity before, but never been compared to a screeching blackboard. Is that bad?

As for sarcasm, is that bad?

And as you can see by My next post, I am aware that negativity can affect objectivity. I wrote it before reading your comment, but you have brought up a point I ponder more than just for a few seconds. You might read a few more posts and decide that (a) it's nothing but screeching blackboards all the way down or (b) there's a pulse behind the prose.

Finally, I did see the number of surveys filled per country, but I related them more to the size of the country (see your list) and to the confidentialty range than anythine else.

Except in the case of Puerto Rico. Did My screeching thing there.

Pax said...

The issue is that Puerto Rico has it share of serious problems - unemployment at 16.2% (9/2009), mind-boggling homicide rates, drug problems that are completely out of control, property crime... I even read a story about the federal government sending additional support to San Juan to help combat the crime - something that hasn't proven effective.

Does anyone even consider a home nowadays that isn't completely fenced in?

The problem with constant negativity and sarcasm, which I find prevalent on the Island, is that the attitude trickles down to everyone else. It reaches the point where no one cares.

So I submit to you that the problems may run deeper than fraud at the government level. The question... is the negative attitude so prevalent on the Island, the corruption so deep, the dog-eat-dog mentality so pervasive that it doesn't make a difference who's on top running things? If everyone believes they have a moral right to do unto others as others have done unto them... if the only concern is making a quick buck any way you can... then the fight is already lost.

So yeah... about the screeching and sarcasm:-)... completely unnecessary where transparency in government is concerned. It's a great barometer by which positive change can come about at the highest levels. We, as a people, should work on moving up this ladder and serve as a model for other more corrupt nations of the world despite (and especially considering) the other problems we have.

Some bookmarked sources:


On Sidebar - State by State breakdown of unemployment (including PR) - 9/2009

Puerto Rico Unemployment rate - Historical Data thru Sept/2009

Gil C. Schmidt said...

I care, otherwise I wouldn't still be here after 5+ years (as The Jenius, I mean.)

You are right, Pax, when you say that the negative attitude and sarcasm (flip sides of the same broken record?) don't help. But I submit to each of Us: What are you doing? I know I keep making small strides to effect change (education, communications, business development), and for what I can't change, I fire sarcasm-bullets at. Not an excuse or a justification, but merely an observation.

Now I'm not saying I'm more worthy than those who don't do anything...but I am. Think of your situation (recent arrival and all) and notice that many who say a lot, don't do squat and many who do a lot, don't say squat. I'm in the "do some and say squat" category. (Somehow that sounded better in My mind...)

As for government, that's Our fault: We elected these idiots and through Our blind support and bovine intolerance, they act like they own the joint. Taking back Our government is a good start, though that involves a combination of responsibilty and attitude We seem to be somewhat lacking in.

And lastly, kudos to you for discussing this with Me. It makes My day because it presents a different viewpoint and moves a conversation forward. I'm very grateful you've taken the time to both read and comment. Even the blackboard thing was good: made Me smile. And gave Me a goal to evoke in future posts...

The Insider said...

There are many types of "negative attitudes".

A little excessive sarcasm, perhaps. Sitting on our hands. Treating everything with kids gloves all the time. All negative.

This blog is special - because it gets the attention of those who don't care otherwise. I don't think Gil has any desire to jump into politics (although it would be interesting to see him do so) - but his ideas are definitely worthy of "instigating" discussion, and reflection, and possibly changing perspectives.

If he approached the topics with the same high level of intellectual analysis, minus his trademark wit and sarcasm, who would pay much attention?

It may have some harsh edges, but it's delivered with a whole lot of polish too.

Gil's not going to directly make huge change - he'd have to jump directly into the fray to do that. But it may be his ideas that infect someone else who may...

I'm certain some of Gil's high profile targets have read this blog at one point or another. And I would wager that they won't forget his ideas soon.

An idea implanted into the mind, if powerful enough cannot be unexperienced. It becomes the software of the mind. Hopefully, Gil's solutions will start replicating.

Puerto Rico is just too damn happy to wake up - or so the statistics say. FYI - I phrased that the nice way.

Gil C. Schmidt said...

Thank you, Insider. I'd blush if I had any sense or sense of decorum. I once read that sarcasm was the clumsy shield of the overly sensitive and I nodded in recognition of how true that can be. And as you and everyone else who's met Me comments, I am one of the really positive people, a near-giddy optimist, in My endeavors and consulting.

So there might be a little Jekyll/Hyde thing going on here, but in terms of style, not content. Stuff I write as The Jenius is often a repeat of things I've said in public, at conferences and even on the radio. Doesn't make Me brave(r) or more important than the common guy or gal, just consistent. Maybe negatively so.

Once again, thank you for the kind words and continued support. And to Paz and the other people who call Me out or draw My attention to things, please keep at it. I'm not right all the time and My goal is to be right all the time. As near as I can tell, I'm just 6% away...

Pax said...

I'll make this my last comment on this specific topic so as not to beat an already deader than dead horse... When I originally posted, it was in regard to the tone used on *this* post.

There is a strong correlation between Transparency in Government and personal freedoms, corruption, nepotism, budgeting, back-door-deals and so on. I'm 100% certain that you understand this so I was naturally thrown a little off-balance when I read the tone on this post. Was the score Puerto Rico received deserving of the same tone?

The responses have been curious to say the least. Negativity with flair... A way to force others to think - about bribery where none exists...? A defense made for negative and emotionally-charged witticism regardless of the topic?

In reading the latest post made (Larva "Leadership" Lowdown), I wonder if this blog simply isn't just about name-calling. I may comment on that post later.

Based on the comments (much appreciated though, thanks), I can only surmise that the blog is intended to be read by the targets of these attacks and not the general public.

Gil C. Schmidt said...

You assume no bribery exists: your assumption is wrong. Over the past two decades, from 1988-2008, the level of convictions--convictions, not insinuations--for fraud and bribery and corruption has risen to historical levels. Notable targets include Department Secretaries, high-ranking Senators and Representatives, mayors, a governor's Chief of Staff and his campaign manager and several dozen other political "leaders" and their business cronies. We even had a sitting governor charged and the current Secretary of State is under investigation for fraud, stemming from an investigation that already "castrated" a Senator.

An Ethics Office Director in the early 2000s estimated that corruption cost the government 10%-20% of its then-$8 billion budget. If that estimate from an insider is tantamount to "no corrupton", then what percentage is?

I'm snarky and I use a nasty tone. I'm fed up, plain and simple. I wasn't lauding Puerto Rico for a "good" score: I was snarkily pointing out that We suck at transparency and that some of Our competitors do much better. Singapore, for instance, studied Our economic model in the 1960s and within 30 years had left Us in the dust. That pisses Me off, expecially when one of their measurable advantages is a transparency We claim to have...and don't.

As for slapping a label on the current (non)governor, I'm sure he doesn't know that this blog exists, as do very very few of the others mentioned here. They don't care and they have no reason to, for I am just one voice. But look over "The Larva Lowdown" and tell Me that I've only limited Myself to insulting and that I haven't provided a framework for what Our leader should be. I point out that at least I offer a context for My remarks and I make every effort I can to be as visible as the targets. If there's a fairer step I can take--and still be as sardonic and sarcastic as I am now--I'll take it.

I understand you want to move on to other topics; you've done Me a service by commenting on this one. That is always greatly appreciated.