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How do I look?


Transparency International has just released its annual report on the perception of corruption levels in 180 countries and Spain is ranked 35


Friday, 3 February 2023, 10:47

It's that time of year again. Transparency International has just released its annual report on the perception of corruption levels in 180 countries and Spain is ranked 35, with a score of 60 (100 being a model of cleanliness, 0 being - well, 12 points below bottom-ranked Somalia). It's the second consecutive year that Spain has dropped down the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) by one point, which shows "danger of further decline", according to the Berlin-based NGO. The organisation also urged Spain's parliament to enact laws that would ensure greater transparency, something that it said was lacking in Pedro Sánchez's government.

It's no coincidence that, in parallel with this steady fall down the CPI, vows to fight corruption have disappeared from political discourse in Spain. No one, you'll note, is running on an anti-corruption ticket ahead of this year's general election. Contrast this with 2016, in the early days of Ciudadanos and Podemos, when the former party even got as far as signing an anti-corruption pact with the Partido Popular (which was never heard of again). It's as if those once-crusading forces naïvely had a crack at cleaning up the system before staggering back, daunted by the scale and complexity of their mission. High-profile political fraud, of course, is merely the prominent tip of a gigantic iceberg.

Inspired by a recent trip to Rome, I'm currently reading Tobias Jones's fascinating book The Dark Heart of Italy. Italy, by the way, is several points below Spain on the CPI at 41, but has risen steadily over the last decade, roughly starting from when Silvio Berlusconi's last stint as prime minister ended. The following passage resonated strongly: "Wrongdoing [in Italy] is invariably excused by the fact that political ... leaders are thought to be up to much worse things, and a little tax-dodging or bribery by us lesser beings really isn't that important... [E]veryone's up to something, and you're stupid if you're not too."

Those words also apply perfectly to Spain - another country in which corruption, in different guises and to varying degrees of seriousness, exists at all levels of society. At the lower end are everyday instances that quickly cease to surprise when you live here - landlords insisting that rent be paid in cash, for example, or dole office officials advising you to give English classes "under the table" to boost your benefits (as once happened to my sister).

The systemic back-handedness goes all the way up to elected officials embezzling public money and former monarchs allegedly stashing multimillion-euro kickbacks in offshore accounts.

No wonder Ciudadanos and Podemos gave up fighting corruption in Spain: as Jones put it, "Everyone's up to something."



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