Monday, February 25, 2013

More transparency is economically profitable. Article at L'Econòmic.

(Here there is a Spanish translation of this post)

On Saturday, February 16th, L'Econòmic published an article of mine about the much-needed transparency in our political parties.

L'Econòmic is a Catalan weekly economic newspaper, so I tried to relate the transparency, or the lack of transparency, as a problem not only political but also economic.

There is a very clear correlation between the countries with the highest income per capita and those with more transparency (in all areas of society).

Here I've translated the original article to English language:

More transparency is economically profitable

   Currently the word "transparency" is trending topic in Spain, everybody talks about it, all the people speak about it and everyone has some ideas for how to apply it, in fact, it seems that now we have 30 days to do what have not done in the past 30 years.
   The truth is there is a large group of people and institutions that have long claim, require, transparency in our country. The Spanish State is the only big country in the European Union has not yet legislated access to public information as a fundamental right of any citizen, this is one of the main democratic deficits we have, (do you know that in Sweden almost 250 years that we have this right?, 250 years! [1]).

   A Swedish citizen certainly would not understand, for example, this case about an NGO in favor of transparency (Access-Info), recently it has been ordered to pay 3,000 euros (the cost of the trial) for asking the Spanish government about which measures to fight corruption it has implemented [2]. In the current situation, this example shows very clear the shortcomings and inconsistencies of our democracy.

   But it's not just a matter of democratic rights, as could not be otherwise, it’s also an economic issue.

   In the latest report of Perception Index of Transparency International Corruption [3], for the year 2012, the Spanish State is located at #30, just at same level that Bhutan and quite far from the leading countries: Denmark, Finland, New Zealand and Sweden.

   With the exception of the tax haven countries, we see that there is a clear correlation between countries with less corruption and those with a higher per capita income (the latter indicator, according to the World Bank [4]).

   Therefore, increasing transparency is economically profitable.

   As I mentioned earlier, currently there is much talked about transparency: many complaints, many analyzes, some concrete measures, but few actions that are quick to implement and less which are voluntary.

   Most proposals are aimed at changing the laws in order to require more transparency in certain institutions. Certainly, it is a necessary step but it is not sufficient, there must also demand proactivity.

   True transparency is what is done voluntarily, must be a wanted and unforced act; however much we legislate, always will be a gap for those who do not want to be transparent.

   In this sense, and focusing on political parties, now it is time that these organizations are undertaking the necessary steps to be proactively transparent. In Spain about 90% of party funding source is public, so it is reasonable that society wants to know what is done with that money.

   It is commendable that the Partido Popular (which is currently in charge of Spanish Government) has recently published his major economic figures are not yet audited by the Tribunal de Cuentas (the Spanish Court of Auditors), (exercises from 2008 to 2011) [5].

   Without wishing to detract from this initiative, this is not enough, these data say little because they are related to only big budget numbers without explain them in details. The real action to fight corruption in political parties comes from the opening of all the data in Open Data way, this is publish the data to be easily processed by software.

   This will make public all data (including smaller items) and, importantly, provides automatic crossing this information with that of other institutions.

   Without detriment to do a good Spanish transparency law, we must ask the political parties to voluntarily open their data [6].

   As I mentioned before, increasing transparency is economically profitable, I think we aren't in a position to afford to disregard it.

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