Tuesday, September 27, 2011

on corruption & RI diplomats unpaid parking fines in New York

The recent news title "RI diplomats owe Rp 6.5b in New York parking fines" shows how incredible the corruption culture penetrate into Indonesian, anytime and anywhere. Check out this part of the news: 
The New York City administration announced last Friday that Indonesia was number three on its list of countries with unpaid parking tickets, with about $750,000 in unpaid fines.The city's department of finance said that unpaid tickets totalled $16.7 million through the end of July. Egypt topped the list with $1.9 million in unpaid tickets, followed by Nigeria with about $1 million, Reuters reported from New York.
What do you think? Surprised? I believe you do not need to be surprised at all. There are a single explanation (and prediction) for this cause: corruption norms.
You can find the evidence for that cause back in year 2007 when Raymond Fisman and Edward Miguel publish their  paper in Journal of Political Economy titled "Corruption, Norms, and Legal Enforcement: Evidence from Diplomatic Parking Tickets". The abstract of their study as follow:
We study cultural norms and legal enforcement in controlling corruption by analysing the parking behaviour of United Nations officials in Manhattan. Until 2002, diplomatic immunity protected UN diplomats from parking enforcement actions, so diplomats' actions were constrained by cultural norms alone. We find a strong effect of corruption norms: diplomats from high-corruption countries (on the basis of existing survey-based indices) accumulated significantly more unpaid parking violations. In 2002, enforcement authorities acquired the right to confiscate diplomatic license plates of violators. Unpaid violations dropped sharply in response. Cultural norms and (particularly in this context) legal enforcement are both important determinants of corruptions.
Pay attention with the bold sentences. If we take them seriously, we will find one common thing there: corruption norms. You may agree or disagree with their conclusion. But, this is a single research conducted in 2006/2007 which could clearly explain (or predict?) what happened in year 2011. It is very hard to ignored! Indonesia was number 24 of countries with average unpaid annual New York parking violation per diplomat for period of November 1997 to November 2005, according to Fisman and Miguel study. So, what makes the ranking getting higher within six years from 24 to number 3? Perhaps, it is really due to our corruption norms.  
I am really baffled with this finding!
Fisman, R. and Miguel, E. (2007) "Corruption, Norms, and Legal Enforcement: Evidence from Diplomatic Parking Tickets" Journal of Political Economy, Vol.115 (5): 1020-1048

Note: Fisman and Miguel also wrote a book title "Economic Gangsters: Corruption, Violence, and the Poverty of Nations". The above paper mentioned was describe in Chapter 4: Nature or Nurture? Understanding the Culture of Corruption. The chapter is much fun to read and less econometrics-theoretical approach. You can read them here. While this particular chapter highly relevant to answer the phenomenon of unpaid parking fines, the rest of the chapters in Economic Gangsters really gives general hints on possibility to fight corruption. It is highly recommended book! 

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Anonymous said...

You should check first the facts about the parking tickets before make such research. You can also ask yourself why the news will always "hot" in September (UNGA). Please, be proportionate and check the facts. Have you ever got the table of all tickets?? How do the city of NY use their method of calculating? Why they started only in 1997 until 2002? Besides, there is no solution or agreement in the Committee in UN that can be implemented to solve this problem. Have you ever check what kind of privilege that US embassy in Jakarta got from Indonesia especially for parking space?? They blocked the street in the name of security and scraed phobia of terrorism...what an ironic!!! Be balance, fair and real. If you don't know the facts and don't have the evidence (list of the parking tickets), you know nothing at all!! Visit other countries and see how US Embassies being facilitate before judging....

embun said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for your comment.

Well, I tried to be balance. If you aware, I am not solely judge the phenomenon by the news per se. The way I discuss about the news was by using empirical study from Fisman and Miguel (2007) paper. It is a highly recognized paper and published in a well-known journal for its credibility. Although I haven't check the fact (data source) by myself, the paper clearly mentioned the sources of their data including all details, i.e. maps of major violation occurred, time series records of each violation, how they identify which country got the tickets, etc. The reason they used data between 1997 to 2002 to test the effect of changing in policy between those period, in the way that if the regulation was enforced further whether it will change the behaviour (parking violation). Perhaps, if you have time to read the paper further, you could know better about what 'facts' used in this case.

I'm not sure what kind of solution/agreement that you expect. My understanding is if there's a parking violation then you have to pay fined, as simple as that. But since diplomats have an immunity, it is also rational to 'abuse' those rights, no? If this is a common problem, it will occur for all countries representatives in NY. But, that is not the case. So the question is: is it problem of NY administration (who gave no privilege to Indonesia) or is it Indonesian problem (who love to abuse their immunity)?

US Embassy in Jakarta is not the only embassy who got privilege regarding parking space (or public driveway). Australian Embassy as well as any other embassy around the world also got this privilege, if they want it or need it. It is understandable since it still part of their area and it may be a result of sort of an agreement with Jakarta administration or Indonesian government. So, it is not a solid comparison.

On the other hand, parking violation by diplomats in NY beyond their own embassy territory is different aspect. There's no special reason for such thing. But, they are allow to violate parking regulation since they have immunity. The intriguing question is why diplomats loved to violate (read: use the immunity) a lot? Jakarta also could test the same ideas against all foreign country representation, if the administration enforcing strict parking system as in NY. I bet, the results will not much different as discuss by Fisman and Miguel.