Corruption: Sweden Lags Behind

By: Morten Koch Andersen,

According to Transparency International yearly (2022) index that was recently published, Sweden now shares the fifth place with Singapore. It is Sweden’s lowest ranking in years. Based on a number of criteria, Transparency International score and rank 180 countries across the world every year, according to how well they resist corruption.

Compared to 2021, Sweden drops two positions. It is the worst position for Sweden in eleven years. Nevertheless, with 83 points, Sweden still remains at a high level. Compared to its neighbouring Scandinavian countries Sweden is at the lowest. (Norway, fourth place with 84 points, Finland, second place with 87 points and Denmark, at the top with 90 points.)

According to Transparency International corruption is a fundamental threat to security and peace. It creates dissatisfaction with society, undermines institutions and the legitimacy of the state.

We talked to Morten Koch Andersen, Senior Researcher and our expert in corruption, to ask him about his thoughts on the latest report;

“It is not really a surprise that Sweden has an issue with corruption. We do bring more media attention and attention to it in general. This affects people’s perspective of corruption and sheds light on problems in society.

Fact is, that the more we pay attention to it, the more we see it. I believe that is a positive thing. The more attention we give these issues, the more cases we will notice. But, does it mean that there is more corruption in society or does it mean that we are more aware?

Also, we need to recognise that the difference between 1 and 10 on a ranking list is not huge. Statistically, it is hardly visible.

Are there reasons to worry about the situation in Sweden?

There are no reasons to worry that corruption in Sweden is a threat to legitimacy, democracy or security in our society.

Instead, I see this report as a good alibi for discussion. The fact that we moved down a bit on the scale provides an opportunity to discuss, to voice and address issues. If we debate and criticise issues before they become actual corruption problems, then we can prevent the criminal acts from happening.

I think it is useful to start the discussion on practices in the grey area between legality and morality before they materialise as corruption.

Who is responsible for addressing corruption?

It is the responsibility of any citizen. If you see something that borderlines a criminal act you can address it. Or the system can. Greater attention to these issues gives us better understanding of questionable practices and behaviours already before they become problems.

Why, do you believe, has corruption increased in Sweden?

I don’t believe it has increased. Instead, I think it is a rather a matter of attention. And it is good that corruption in Sweden and in the Nordics gets more attention. In societies like ours, with a high level of trust, we generally have a shallow understanding of corruption. We find it hard to see the nuances and have no language for it. Our lack of experience makes it harder for us to know how to deal with it.

I believe that the report can contribute to more discussion and hence a more developed language, which in turn can lead to better tools for preventing and mitigating corruption.

What is corruption?

Corruption is different things in different contexts; practices and behaviours. What is seen as a corrupt practice in country, may be considered legit in others.

In Sweden and in the Nordics, there are things that we do that are morally accepted but still illegal. We rarely see bribes or similar benefits. But, we see a lot of people doing each other favours.

For example, letting your brother-in-law fix your house and pay him directly is illegal. But, many will still consider it valid. Hence, corruption is also about what we see as a legitimate act, what is moral and what is not, in parallel to the outright illegal.


Photo credit: Stock Birken Unsplash


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