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Perception or Reality?

07 Feb 2019
By Rebecca Smith
Auckland

New Zealand has again been ranked as having one of the least corrupt public sectors and judiciaries in the World. The Corruption Perceptions Index (TI-CPI) was recently released by Berlin based Transparency International and has New Zealand coming in second after Denmark. The TI-CPI measures comparative levels of corruption as perceived by those who have dealings with governments at any level.

It might seem easy to just write this result off as yet another “perception index” that doesn’t necessarily fit with our own individual versions of reality.

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The CPI is actually a composite index; a combination of 13 surveys and assessments of corruption, collected by a variety of reputable institutions. The following 8 surveys are applied to calculate New Zealand’s score:

The change in New Zealand’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index rank is linked to a shift in just one data source: the Executive Opinion Survey (EOS) conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF). This survey measured a significant 9-point drop in perceptions of corruption from 66 New Zealand businesses executives who responded to this survey between January and April 2018.

Whilst the TI-CPI does not consider corruption in the business or non-profit sectors, the results of this particular survey should cause us to pause and understand whether this is a reflection of overall business sentiment at the time or if it’s the beginning of a trend.

This WEF survey indicates the business sector may be under pressure especially among those exporting to international markets. Not to cast shadows, but it may be linked to the ranking of two of our major trading partners, China and the United States, both of whom have fallen to new lows. Businesses exporting or dealing with debt markets or offshore shareholders are particularly alert to shifts in these countries and the impact on business and government practices.

Ranking 2nd certainly doesn’t mean New Zealand is corruption free but it does give us a valuable benchmark and more importantly, a sense of obligation and commitment to maintain this position. After all, it’s our reputation on the line.

Speaking of reputation, last week I received an in-depth report on New Zealand’s performance in the Reputation Institutes Country Reputation Index. This is the largest normative database on country reputation in the world encompassing 58,000 individual ratings from an informed general public in G8 countries who rank 55 of the world’s largest countries.

The reputation of a country is built on perceptions across three core areas: Appealing Environment, Effective Government and Advanced Economy. Perceptions of Appealing Environment and Effective Government account for over three quarters of a country’s reputation.

Again, we see the Northern European countries at the top of the table with New Zealand at 5th leading the Pacific Rim countries. Notably Australia has dropped 2 ranks from 2017.

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Reputation Institute Country RepTrak Survey 2018

New Zealand maintained its position and perceptions of New Zealand have been on the improve over the past four years. In line with the global trend, our score did drop slightly. According to the Reputation Institute, underlying feelings of geo-political tension, nationalism, and social unrest has resulted in an overall reputation decline for all nations.

Being welcoming, safe, beautiful and highly principled drives a country’s reputation accounting for 51% of a country’s score on the RepTrak index.

And that is largely why New Zealand has universally excellent scores. It will come as no surprise that New Zealand’s strong reputation foundation is the ‘Appealing Environment’ dimension where we rank 1st out of all 55 countries.

Four out of the five most important individual attribute drivers are from this dimension (friendly and welcoming, beautiful country, appealing lifestyle, is an enjoyable country) with New Zealand receiving excellent results on each of those measures and ranking first on ‘beautiful country’ and ‘friendly and welcoming’.

However, New Zealand is also perceived favourably on the most important attribute within the ‘Effective Government’ dimension ranking 5th for ‘is a safe place’. What’s more, our overall reputation is positively influenced by perceptions of our performance in the following three attributes:

  • ‘is an ethical country with high transparency and low corruption’
  • ‘has adopted social and economic policies’
  • ‘is a responsible participant in the global community’

It’s important we maintain these positive perceptions as they are key to our overall ranking of 8th on the broader ‘Effective Government’ dimension.

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The reputation of a country has a direct impact on it’s ability to attract people, talent, investment, and open doors for exporters. It also opens doors and support for New Zealand to influence and impact environmental, societal, and human progress domestically and globally.

In short, being an ethical country with high transparency and low corruption is the 6th most important area to drive country reputation. Perceptions of our performance in this area is undeniably driving global favourability and consideration for New Zealand.

Unfortunately, we rank only 16th on the third dimension, ‘Advanced Economy’ – which is about average according to RepTrak. Perceptions in this area have been consistent over the past seven years. We simply don’t have that many well-known brands, we’re not seen as a particularly important contributor to global culture, we’re not perceived as having high quality products & services, nor are we considered technologically advanced.

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Those of us living inside New Zealand know that there is a gap between perception and reality. We definitely need to share with the world that we are a progressive and creative nation, that our tech sector is our fastest growing sector, that we have some great brands. You just need to read the book “Number 8 Rewired” to be reminded of the ingenuity that exists in New Zealand. There is no question that we need to share these stories with the world, but the research tells us that touting all those ‘Advanced Economy’ attributes doesn’t necessarily influence consideration for our country as much as the other attributes I’ve already covered.

We are in the fortunate position that the things we do well, and are well known for, contribute the most to how positive consumers feel about a country.

The task is actually quite simple. We need to keep sharing our stories with the world. The real stories that matter. The stories of how we care for our environment and our society. The stories of ingenuity, kaitiaki and integrity. The stories of what we’re doing to make a difference and progress our place, our people and our planet.

Our role at New Zealand Story is to make it easy for you to play your part. Just follow us on our social media channels and share the stories we make. Share them with your friends and family on Facebook, your business colleagues on LinkedIn, your global contacts on Twitter and Instagram, or your distributors and partners on WeChat or any other channel that works for you.

Become an #nzstoryteller now to continue to improve perceptions, increase favourability toward New Zealand, and drive the future actions our nation needs to be not just a good country, but a country that is good for the world.

Nga mihi,

Rebecca