Really – an 8-way tie for first place …?

February 13th, 2016 Sections: Life In Kyrgyzstan, Maths-Stats, News
The Flemish Knot - otherwise known as a Figure 8 - Photo from Animated knots ... go and see how to tie it!

The Flemish Knot – otherwise known as a Figure 8 – Photo from Animated knots … go and see how to tie it!

A headline brought a smile to my face … but it soon disappeared as I considered the full implications of the story.

It was above a short article reporting a survey carried out by the National Statistics Committee … the government’s bureau for collecting, analyzing and reporting on all measurable aspects of Kyrgyz society.

Eight state agencies called most corrupt in Kyrgyzstan.

My imagination immediately sprung into action and I pictured a race in which all the runners crossed the Finish line at the same time … a dead heat … an 8-way dead heat.

But, of course, it wasn’t quite like that.  The headline should probably have read something like “The Eight most corrupt state agencies in Kyrgyzstan are named” … they didn’t all get equal scores! … or “The eight state agencies in Kyrgyzstan considered to be the most corrupt“.

Last year, they decided to add a question to the general survey they carry out to try and gauge the attitude of the population to the government and official bodies, asking respondents for their “personal view of the level of corruption in the state bodies of executive power and local self-government”.

Unfortunately, the didn’t give any details of the methodology used for scoring responses … which would have been interesting … but, in the unenviable League Table produced as a result of this question, the State Penitentiary Service took the Gold Medal and the title Most Corrupt, by coming in first place with a score of -30.5 points, followed by the State Drug Control Service took Silver with -20.5 points, and the Ministry of Health Care, who scored -20 points were awarded the Bronze.

The ‘also ran’s that followed were the State Customs Service (-13.3 points), The Ministry of Internal Affairs – MIA (which presumably means police), (-11.8 points), the State Tax Service (-5.7 points), the Ministry of Education and Science (-5.5 points), the State Service for Combating Economic Crimes (-1.7 points) and the State Agency of Architecture (-0.1 points).

There you are … that’s your eight.

Just for the record, the news article went on to give the scores for some other state bodies … The Ministry of Justice (0.2 points), the Fund for State Property Management, (3.7 points), the Ministry of Economy, (6.2 points).

The least corrupt, at least – according to the respondents, was State Agency for Communications (with a massive score of 48.8 points), followed by the Ministry of Culture (46.6 points) and the State Agency for Local Governments Affairs (43.4 points).


Now, regular readers of my postcards will know that I am fascinated by statistics … and almost any story quoting some statistics is an immediate draw and I treat it as if it an invitation to analyse and comment on the results …

There are lots of comments that come to mind as a result of this story … but I’ll limit myself to these:

It really would have been nice to have a few more details about the methodology … How many people were asked? … what options were they given? … how did they score it? … how did they arrive at those numbers? … what do those numbers actually mean?

To be fair, the National Statistics Committee may well have made those details available – but the editor decided not to use them … after all, people don’t like numbers, do they?

I suppose that one might want to ask why they bother posing such a question  … just talk to any man (woman or child) on the street and they will be more than happy to give you their opinion … and it almost certainly wouldn’t be good.  Politicians and the state authorities do not seem to be held in very high regard … I haven’t tried to keep count of the number of times people have told me how corruption is common throughout the country … but, in my experience, “politicians and civil servants are only looking out for ‘number one'” seems to be the general opinion.

However, in my experience, (once again), that’s not necessarily true.

Please don’t misunderstand me … I am not saying that there is no corruption … nor that many people in important positions don’t look after themselves, their relatives and friends or that they always react appropriately when faced with a conflict of interests … What I am saying is that, in my experience, not everyone in a position of authority abuses it.

I haven’t kept count, either, of the number of times people here say things like – “You are not in Britain now … things are done differently here” … as there is no corruption and abuse of power in Britain, America, Germany, Japan … but that seems to be a common perception.

However, asking the question has given us some data that could well be useful … certainly, if the question is used repeatedly over a period of time, we should be able to see a historical context and possibly determine a trend … which might be much more valuable than anecdotal accounts.  We just have to understand the data.


We shouldn’t misunderstand the results as reported.  Although the question represents an attempt to determine some form of objective indicator … it is still based on perceptions – as in the Transparency International Index … it is NOT an indicator of corruption per se.  This perception might well be based on personal experience – as my comments above were … but they are still subjective and possibly/probably based on anecdotal ‘evidence’

Indeed, I wonder if the stimulus behind the question in the first place might not have been that Transparency International survey … could it be that the results might support or contradict the findings as reported by the global survey.

It seems to be about corruption within governmental bodies … but it doesn’t really tell us if people think Kyrgyzstan is a corrupt society … It could be (but, OK, unlikely) that most people think that corruption is a rare commodity – but that, on the odd occasions when it does occur, this is where it is to be found.

The League table results were somewhat surprising … and certainly different from those published as a result of other, earlier, surveys … when the Architectural Services, the Courts, the Traffic Police, the Customs Service and educational institutions have figured much more prominently than they do here.

A couple of the results struck me as somewhat ironic … for example, the number of law enforcement bodies in the top 8 – including the State Service for Combating Economic Crimes …

… and also the position of the Ministry of Culture, given that one of the Deputy Ministers has been given a hefty prison sentence following his conviction on charges of corruption and abuse of power.

Before getting too indignant, however … especially us, foreigners … we should do well to remember that is a survey of Kyrgyz citizens about the situation in their country  … and not every country is willing to undergo such self-critical examination … and, perhaps, also the old adage “Physician – Heal yourself!” …

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