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New Zealand study challenges national corruption stereotypes

WELLINGTON, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) — Big government is likely to provide fewer opportunities for corruption, but corruption will thrive in countries with lower incomes, according to a New Zealand study covering 59 countries for nearly 30 years.

The findings of the study by Victoria University academics challenged the widely held view that a culture of corruption existed in traditional societies, and that societies with more corruption should import institutions from low corruption nationsand copy their values, said Dr Ron Fischer, one of the researchers.

“Within countries, the one thing that makes a difference over time is wealth. The results suggest we don’t have to modernize societies or change traditional systems to reduce corruption,” he said.

Fellow researcher Seini O’Connor said corrupt behavior had many causes.

“In low income countries, the poorest people may be stealing or paying bribes to get services because they are desperate, and the rich may be demanding bribes and taking kick-backs on big contracts because they are powerful and can get away with it,” she said.

“It’s all about the opportunities and incentives people face.”

The groundbreaking study examined data from 1980 to 2008 and investigated both cultural and economic factors influencing levels of corruption.

In addition to income levels, measured in GDP per capita, the researchers compared other factors, such as government spending as an indicator of government size, the voting system and participation rates as indicators of democracy, and social values.

They also looked at differences between countries with higher and lower levels of corruption.

Fischer said they found countries that were wealthier, valued things like quality of life, free expression and tolerance, and had larger governments, tended to be less corrupt.

Larger governments were sometimes thought to provide opportunities for corruption because more people could have a ” finger in the pie,” but the research undermined this view.

“It’s about the size of government, not whether it is democratic,” said Fischer.

“Countries with larger governments are likely to provide more social services and employment opportunities and have more law enforcement agents. That reduces the need for corruption and increases the chance of being caught.”

The study by the two researchers from the university’s School of Psychology has been published by the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology.

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Written by Kham

18/01/2012 at 8:17 pm

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