In the year 2000, according to Corruption Perception Index ( CPI) repoted by Berlin based Transparency International (TI), Nigeria was ” the most corrupt Country” in the World. Nigeria’s score was 1.2 and it ranked 90th among 90 countries surveyed.

How did Bangladesh do in 2000? Bangladesh was not even in the list of corrupt countries in 2000 ( Bangladeshi media will report this way). Fact is that Transparency International did not even start collecting and reporting data from Bangladesh.

Then came 2001. Data from Bangladesh started being reported in annual TI report. While 12 surveys were assayed in case India ( whose score was 2.7); one 3 indicators were assessed in case of newly included Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s score was a meager 0.4 and naturally Bangladesh earned the coveted 91st or last position. Interestingly, Nigeria improved by ranking, lowest to second lowest but it’s CPI score worsened from 1.2 to 1.

In 2001 report, Bangladesh scoring was so weak that TI had to add this caution at the end of it’s report,

“Data for this country in 2000 was available from only three independent survey sources, and each of these yielded very different results. While the composite score is 0.4, the range of individual survey results is from -1.7 to +3.8. This is a greater range than for any other country. TI stresses, therefore, that this result needs to be viewed with caution.”

In 2002 ten new countries were added to make it 102 and Bangladesh was again last (102nd) by scoring 1.2. 1.2 is a big improvement from 0.4 in 2001 but still only 5 survey sources were used with great number of variability between sources.

In 2003 Bangladesh’s score improved to 1.3 but Bangladesh still was at the bottom. Nigeria remained second while it’s scores dropping again.

In 2004 although Bangladesh continue to improve it’s score, now 1.5, Bangladesh shared the last ( 145th spot) with Haiti. Haiti’s score dropped from previous year.

In 2005, Bangladesh improved score further to 1.7 but still was at the bottom ( 158th) with Chad.

When this 2005 report was published by  TI, the representative from Bangladesh, Mr. Ifthekhar Zaman from TIB ( Transparency International Bangladesh)  was present and gave a statement, a rare incidence in TI history. The statement was published along with the TI global report 2005. Mr Zaman’s statement starts with,

I take the floor with mixed feelings. It’s a privilege and pleasure to join this enormously important event in the yearly calendar of global anti-corruption movement. However, coming from Bangladesh which has been for the fifth successive time ranked at the bottom of the list, it is extremely disappointing for me that rampant corruption of those in positions of power has brought this dubious distinction to my country. I should add that corruption prevails in every country of the world. What is striking about Bangladesh is that in the absence of strong and effective deterrence it has become so pervasive that even the common citizens are affected by it whether it is because of political corruption, or that in the public service delivery sectors such as health, education, police, local government, land administration, etc.

In 2006, ( Data from January  2005 to October 2006) Bangladesh saw significant improvement (0.3)  in CPI score. With a score of 2.0 ( 0.4 to 1.2 to 1.3 to 1.5 to 1.7 to 2.0) Bangladesh suddenly ranked 8th from the bottom, not at the bottom anymore. Bangladesh’s elevation also was made possible due to the fact that other nations like Haiti, Iraq, Myanmar, Sudan etc did worse than Bangladesh.

In 2007, for the first time in seven years history with TI, Bangladesh failed to improve its score. Score remained at 2.0, however as more countries started being reported ( now 179) and new included nations scored poorly, Bangladesh’s rank improved to 12th. And clueless media in Bangladesh reported that Bangladesh’s corruption has improved.

In 2008, though Bangladesh improved marginally, 2.0 to 2.1 ( despite all the bulldozer enforced anti-corruption Jihad by the military), Bangladesh now found itself over 30 nations in CPI scores.

In 2009, With new government coming to power, Bangladesh maintained a steady state of improvement in CPI i.e. 2.1 to 2.4 ( Finally became equivalent to Pakistan). But this time Bangladesh was 38 countries above Somalia who was at the bottom.

In 2010, again for the second time in ten years, Bangladesh failed to improve CPI score. It remained at 2.4 but found itself above 40 countries.

See what Mr Iftekhar Zaman says now, after 2010 report. Today in an op-ed Mr Zaman writes,

ত্রয়োদশ থেকে দ্বাদশ স্থানে নেমে যাওয়া খুব একটা উল্লেখযোগ্য পরিবর্তন নয়, কারণ এই স্থান নির্ধারণের (র্যা ঙ্কিং) ক্ষেত্রে সংশ্লিষ্ট দেশের প্রাপ্ত স্কোরের পাশাপাশি অন্য দেশের তুলনামূলক অবস্থান এবং তালিকায় কতগুলো দেশ অন্তর্ভুক্ত হলো বা কতগুলো দেশ বাদ পড়ল—এরূপ বিষয়ের প্রভাব পড়ে থাকে।
এই সূচকে মূলত কোন দেশ কত স্কোর পেল, সেটাই বেশি গুরুত্বপূর্ণ। বাংলাদেশের এবারের স্কোর গতবারের সমপর্যায়ে থাকাটা নিরাশাব্যঞ্জক এই কারণে যে ২০০৮-এর তুলনায় ২০০৯-এ আমরা ০.৩ পয়েন্ট বেশি পেয়েছিলাম। এক বছরে ০.৩ পয়েন্ট বেশি স্কোর পাওয়া বিশেষ তাৎপর্যপূর্ণ বলে বিবেচিত হয়েছিল, এবং সেবার বাংলাদেশ বিশ্বের ১৮০ দেশের মধ্যে মাত্র নয়টি দেশের একটি ছিল, যাদের অর্জনকে এভাবে মূল্যায়িত করা হয়েছিল।

When Mr Zaman works on corruption, a moral supremacy is expected from him. Between 2001 to 2006, TIB kept on harping the fact that Bangladesh tops corruption list but totally failed to mention that during the five years Bangladesh was at the bottom, Bangladesh made the most improvement in corruption perception index score ( The way Mr Zaman is doing it now to counter the bad publicity associated with one rank demotion). Within five years between 2001 to 2006 the CPI score was elevated from 0.4 to 2.0.

It is also probably the time to start questioning how correctly CPI represents the perception of corruption. I am not saying about real corruption, but being a close observer of Bangladesh, neither WILL I, nor the majority of people will Bangladesh will agree with TI’s assertion that the perception of corruption improved between 2001 to 2006. Any informed citizen would think the perception worsened every year over five years of BNP rule. TI will say CPI is not opinion poll. Still, if a perception index totally goes in the opposite direction of public perception, TI need to start rethinking about it’s source data.

Definitely in 2006 BNP government made a big improvement in the score ( Definitely not in the perception of corruption in public’s mind) by installing the independent anti corruption Commission (ACC). Similarly despite all the perceived extreme form of corruption in power generation sector, communication sector; total lack of transparency in handling the judiciary etc; Bangladesh under Awami League may end up getting good perception score thanks to some academic cover ups like right to information act or Human rights Commission.

One may ask what is the use of right to information act if no one knows on what basis mega million dollar power generation contracts are awarded or international treaties are generated. Similarly what is the use of having a Television savvy Human right’s commission chairman if the ruling party activists, who killed opposition leader-local government rep in broad day light on the main thoroughfare on TV camera, can walk around freely three weeks after the killing.

These rituals, like that of BNP era ACC, are positive indicators  in the eyes of western checklists.  But in real life corruption, the sufferings of the general people by government’s misgovernment and by the ruling party leaders as well as the suffering of opposition activists at the hand of government machinery are the  real indicator of corruption perception.

Our democracy has to walk a long way to that day when the ruling party members and the administration will not be able to feel that they own the country. That is the day, we won’t care what TI says, we will know we are finally free of corruption.