Corruption as an Obstacle to Pandemic Response A COVID-19 Case Study

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Bruno Škrinjarić
Jelena Budak
Allison Carragher


This research explores the relationship between corruption and pandemic outcomes by investigating whether European countries with higher levels of corruption were less successful in fighting COVID-19. Data were analyzed using exploratory factor analysis and structural equation modelling techniques. Results indicate that corruption prevalence and poor bureaucratic quality both decrease trust in government, and this effect is persistent notwithstanding the socioeconomic conditions or geographic attributes of a country. Trust in government, coupled with stringency measures, is positively associated with the number of new people vaccinated, and thus fewer COVID-19-related deaths. Furthermore, corruption undermines trust in the government and its institutions and, through this mechanism, prevents the suppression of the pandemic. Unlike other scarce studies that looked at the direct link between corruption and vaccination only, we also examined the impact of corruption on the outcomes of government pandemic restriction measures and added several contextual variables into the model and found that corruption poses a significant obstacle to pandemic response. Our findings suggest to policymakers that their best weapon against COVID-19 is vaccination, and that renewed efforts to root out corruption and build trust between governments and citizens can positively impact vaccination rates and limit the most devastating effects of the pandemic.

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