Parking violations of diplomats reveal national references

A new way to measure international corruption perceptions

The thirteen diplomats in Pakistan’s UN mission violated New York City’s parking rules, on an average, nearly 70 times in five years. Bangladesh’s eight diplomats averaged 33 parking violations. Bhutan and Sri Lanka, who had five diplomats each, averaged 18, while Nepal’s six did slightly better, with an average of 17 violations. China’s army of 69 diplomats averaged about 10 violations. India’s eighteen diplomats averaged about six violations, matching the score of France’s 29. In comparison, Turkey’s 25, Sweden’s 19 and Japan’s 47 had no parking violations at all. On the other end of the scale, each of Kuwait’s nine diplomats broke New York’s parking rules 246 times on an average.

What’s the point of all this? In a brilliant new study, Ray Fisman and Edward Miguel argue that these figures provide a ready reckoner of how corrupt the diplomats’ home countries are (via Dan Drezner). This makes India the 79th most corrupt country, ahead of Pakistan (10th), Bangladesh (28th), Bhutan (39th), Sri Lanka (40th), Nepal (43rd), China (65th) and wait a minute, Portugal (68th) and France (78th).

Time, perhaps, for the foreign office to issue a circular to its New York mission. Or perhaps create incentives for good behaviour—by making the diplomats pay the fines out of their own pockets.