Flaws in Corruption Perception Index

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Synopsis– Corruption Perception Index as a measure of corruption cannot be used as a base for policymaking.


  • Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is an index published annually by Transparency International [TI] since 1995.
  • The index ranks countries by their perceived levels of corruption as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.
  • India’s ranking– 86th with an overall rating of 40.
  • Experts argue that there are shortcomings in CPI as it fails to highlight the key issues.

What are the major flaws in CPI?

  1. CPI lacks representativeness– TI uses only expert reviews and surveys of business owners. It does not use public polling.
      • The index has been under criticism for substantial bias from the powerful elite.
      • It ignores the perception of the poor.
  2. The index is not able to distinguish between a bribe and a customary act. For example– Global business persons may consider Diwali gifts as corruption at which are customary for locals.
  3. Not all countries are part of the index- It requires 3 surveys per country. As a result, it is not possible to have many countries in the CPI.
      • For example- In 2003, only 133 countries were ranked by the CPI.
      • Makes the ranking order irrelevant– A country’s rank can also change because new countries enter the index and other drops out.
  4. Changing methodology– Data cannot be compared from year to year as TI uses different methodologies and samples every year. This makes it difficult to evaluate the performance of the country.
  5. Perception rating depends on media coverage- Anti-corruption drive in a country has often translated into declines in that country’s CPI score in the following year.
    For example- In 2011, the year of the massive anti-corruption movement, India’s CPI rating declined. While Countries that suppress a free press may escape with this.


CPI is a flawed instrument of corruption measurement, capable of only measuring ambiguous corruption proxies. CPI would be meaningful if used alongside other indices such as the Global Corruption Barometer, Press Freedom Index, and Rule of Law Index.

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