Monday, June 25, 2007

When Diplomatic Parking Immunity Attacks

A study (PDF) last year by American economists demonstrated a significant correlation between the degree of a country's corruption (as measured by surveys) and its diplomats' willingness to park illegally in New York City. Since diplomats enjoy diplomatic immunity, they need not pay parking fines, but some of them have proven more interested in taking advantage of this immunity than others. While the representatives from twenty-two nations, including the United Kingdom, Japan, and Canada had no violations over a five-year period, Kuwait averaged 246.2 violations per diplomat, followed by Egypt, Chad, Sudan, and Bulgaria.

A new report by the BBC displays a similar trend in London, where diplomats seek to avoid fines imposed for shirking the city's congestion charge. Japan, which had been dutiful in New York, breaks into the top four in London, joined by corruption all-stars Nigeria and Sudan. But the worst offender of all? The United States:
The US embassy - along with many others - has refused to pay the congestion fee on the grounds that it is tax; and therefore diplomats are exempt from paying it.

It has led to stinging criticism from London mayor Ken Livingstone, who branded US ambassador Robert Tuttle a "venal little crook" for his refusal to pay.
Link (via Freakonomics Blog). Shall we judge ourselves by the company we keep?

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Image credits: "DSCF4939," se5 Forum for Camberwell, courtesy
Flickr, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.


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