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The Political Salience of Latin Americans’ Perceptions of Corruption

by Matthew Taylor
A demonstrator holds a scarf during a march to demand for the resignation of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez in Tegucigalpa August 14, 2015. Thousands of protesters have been continuing demonstrations in Tegucigalpa, calling for the resignation of Hernandez over a $200 million corruption scandal at the Honduran Institute of Social Security (Jorge Cabrera/Reuters). A demonstrator holds a scarf during a march to demand for the resignation of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez in Tegucigalpa August 14, 2015. Thousands of protesters have been continuing demonstrations in Tegucigalpa, calling for the resignation of Hernandez over a $200 million corruption scandal at the Honduran Institute of Social Security (Jorge Cabrera/Reuters).

Once a year, policymakers and the press are forcibly reminded of the terrible costs of corruption. This year, it fell on January 27, when Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) was released, inciting the ritual gnashing of teeth and beating of chests about relative national corruption gains and losses.

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Nigeria’s 2016 Budget Continues Use of Secretive ‘Security Votes’

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil

In a post originally published on African Arguments, CFR International Affairs Fellow Matthew Page explains that despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s anticorruption progress, the government’s new budget includes allocations for opaque funds that often go missing.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Egypt’s Backsliding, UK Transparency Setbacks, New Global Rankings

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Members of security forces keep watch in Tahrir Square before the fifth anniversary of the January 25 uprising, in Cairo, Egypt, January 24, 2016 (Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany). Members of security forces keep watch in Tahrir Square before the fifth anniversary of the January 25 uprising, in Cairo, Egypt, January 24, 2016 (Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany).

United States Undeterred by Egypt’s Democratic Backsliding

Five years after its revolution, Egypt is no closer to democracy. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government routinely arrests political and social media activists, and has detained tens of thousands of people, many held for months without charges. Raids on news outlets and a law prohibiting journalists from contradicting official government information undermine freedom of expression. Every opposition party boycotted fall 2015 legislative elections and less than a third of the population turned out to vote. Still, the United States seems to be choosing stability over political freedoms. President Obama restored $1.3 billion in annual military assistance cut after Sisi overthrew former president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. And Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director John Brennan recently visited Cairo to boost security and counterterrorism cooperation, congratulating Sisi on inaugurating a new parliament.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Corruption in Iran, Africa, and Mexico

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Humberto Moreira, a former ally of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and his lawyer Ulrich Richter (L) leave the Soto del Real penitentiary outside Madrid, Spain, January 22, 2016 (Reuters/Susana Vera). Humberto Moreira, a former ally of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and his lawyer Ulrich Richter (L) leave the Soto del Real penitentiary outside Madrid, Spain, January 22, 2016 (Reuters/Susana Vera).

Iran’s Sanction Are Gone, but Not Its Corruption

Corruption presents a huge hurdle for Iran. It ranks 136 out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, and 118 of 189 in the World Bank’s Doing Business report. Despite earning $650 billion in oil profits over the last eight years, billions went missing, and little found its way into public goods such as infrastructure. Still, as international sanctions lift, European and Asian companies including Daimler, Airbus, Total, Eni, and Statoil have or are considering ventures. The UK government even published a guide on doing business in Iran, noting the prevalence of customs that violate its Bribery Act.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Energy Subsidies, Human Rights in Supply Chains, and Poland’s Democracy Rollback

by Shannon K. O'Neil
A driver waits to fill his car with fuel at a petrol station in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 22, 2015 (Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser). A driver waits to fill his car with fuel at a petrol station in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 22, 2015 (Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser).

Oil Prices Plummet—Will Subsidies Follow?
As crude prices fall below $30 a barrel, oil-producing states face mounting fiscal challenges. Saudi Arabia’s 2015 deficit neared $100 billion, roughly 15 percent of gross domestic product (GDP);Venezuela’s reached 14 percent; and Algeria expects foreign reserves to fall by $30 billion in the coming year to cover its looming fiscal gap. Across commodity-dependent nations finance ministers are looking to cut budgets. Energy subsidies are an obvious target, as these expensive and inefficient payments distort markets and undermine development. In December, Saudi Arabia reduced fuel subsidies and prices went up 50 percent. Algeria promised to cut energy subsidies (though in the short term, they are rising). Even in Venezuela, where citizens pay less for gas than water, rumors are the government is considering a hike. The hesitation? Price increases during recessions don’t go over well; in Venezuela, the unpopular move helped bring Hugo Chavez to power.

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Trade, Anticorruption, and Elections at the Start of 2016

by Shannon K. O'Neil
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (3rd L) makes remarks at a news conference to announce a law enforcement action relating to FIFA, as (L-R) Assistant U. S. Attorney for Eastern District of New York Evan Norris, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Robert Capers, FBI Assistant Director New York Field Office Diego Rodriguez, IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Richard Webber and IRS Special Agent in Charge of Los Angeles Field Office Erick Martinez listen, in Washington, December 3, 2015. Officials Alfredo Hawit and Juan Angel Napout have been arrested by Swiss authorities in the ongoing soccer scandal (Reuters/Mike Theiler). U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (3rd L) makes remarks at a news conference to announce a law enforcement action relating to FIFA, as (L-R) Assistant U. S. Attorney for Eastern District of New York Evan Norris, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Robert Capers, FBI Assistant Director New York Field Office Diego Rodriguez, IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Richard Webber and IRS Special Agent in Charge of Los Angeles Field Office Erick Martinez listen, in Washington, December 3, 2015. Officials Alfredo Hawit and Juan Angel Napout have been arrested by Swiss authorities in the ongoing soccer scandal (Reuters/Mike Theiler).

As a new year begins, trade is slower, the drive against corruption continues, and electoral struggles shape fragile democracies. Here are three issues the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy (CSMD) program will be following in 2016:

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Will Setting Goals End Hunger? What’s Next for the SDGs…

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (L), Lars Lokke Rasmussen (C), co-chair and Danish Prime Minister, and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, co-chair and Uganda's President, applaud at a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York, September 25, 2015. World leaders on Friday adopted the most sweeping agenda ever of global goals to combat poverty, inequality and climate change, described by the United Nations secretary-general as "a to-do list for people and planet" (Reuters/Mike Segar). U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (L), Lars Lokke Rasmussen (C), co-chair and Danish Prime Minister, and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, co-chair and Uganda's President, applaud at a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York, September 25, 2015. World leaders on Friday adopted the most sweeping agenda ever of global goals to combat poverty, inequality and climate change, described by the United Nations secretary-general as "a to-do list for people and planet" (Reuters/Mike Segar).

Emerging Voices highlights new research, thinking, and approaches to development challenges from contributing scholars and practitioners. This post is from Dean Karlan, professor of economics at Yale University, president and founder of Innovations for Poverty Action, and founder of ImpactMatters, a newly-launched organization that helps nonprofits use and create evidence to assess their impact.

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A Tipping Point in Bangladesh?

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil
A sign is seen as a building safety assessment is being conducted at an Adorn Knitwear garments factory in Dhaka, December 9, 2014. Adorn is a small business not far from the rubble of Rana Plaza, a Dhaka suburb building that collapsed in April 2013 killing more than 1,100 people, most low-paid seamstresses, and prompting a costly safety overhaul at plants large and small. Last month, Adorn's production lines were silent and its sewing machines gathering dust as the lengthy process of checking the building for structural weakness was underway (Reuters). A sign is seen as a building safety assessment is being conducted at an Adorn Knitwear garments factory in Dhaka, December 9, 2014. Adorn is a small business not far from the rubble of Rana Plaza, a Dhaka suburb building that collapsed in April 2013 killing more than 1,100 people, most low-paid seamstresses, and prompting a costly safety overhaul at plants large and small. Last month, Adorn's production lines were silent and its sewing machines gathering dust as the lengthy process of checking the building for structural weakness was underway (Reuters).

Emerging Voices features contributions from scholars and practitioners highlighting new research, thinking, and approaches to development challenges. This post is from Sarah Labowitz (@SarahLabo), codirector of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. Here, she explains why the time is right for improving factory conditions in Bangladesh, and what can be done to protect workers. 

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: G20 and APEC Summits

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Members of the Group of 20 (G20) wave during the traditional family photo at the G20 leaders summit in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya, Turkey, November 15, 2015. (Reuters/Aykut Unlupinar) Members of the Group of 20 (G20) wave during the traditional family photo at the G20 leaders summit in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya, Turkey, November 15, 2015. (Reuters/Aykut Unlupinar)

CFR’s Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy (CSMD) Program highlights noteworthy events and articles each Friday in “This Week in Markets and Democracy.” 

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This Week in Markets in Democracy: Election in India, Kenyan Corruption, End of BRICS

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Supporters of Janata Dal (United) celebrate after learning the initial results outside the party office in New Delhi, India, November 8, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was heading for a heavy defeat on Sunday in a key election in India's third most populous state Bihar, signalling the waning power of a leader who until recently had an unrivalled reputation as a vote winner. Modi's second straight state election setback will galvanise opposition parties, embolden rivals in his own party and diminish his standing with foreign leaders amid concern he may not win a second term as prime minister (Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee). Supporters of Janata Dal (United) celebrate after learning the initial results outside the party office in New Delhi, India, November 8, 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was heading for a heavy defeat on Sunday in a key election in India's third most populous state Bihar, signalling the waning power of a leader who until recently had an unrivalled reputation as a vote winner. Modi's second straight state election setback will galvanise opposition parties, embolden rivals in his own party and diminish his standing with foreign leaders amid concern he may not win a second term as prime minister (Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee).

CFR’s Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy (CSMD) Program highlights noteworthy events and articles each Friday in “This Week in Markets and Democracy.” 

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