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MONDAY, JULY 10, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Unpaid U.N. parking tickets come from usual suspects

Does failing to pay a parking ticket say something about your character or upbringing? A recent study of United Nations diplomats in New York suggests as much.

Economists from Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley, studied the more than 150,000 unpaid parking tickets that U.N. diplomats accumulated between late 1997 and 2002 — before a crackdown reduced the numbers dramatically. These tickets represented about $18 million in unpaid fines during a period of slightly more than five years.

The scholars concluded that diplomats who came from countries with a history of unchecked corruption were more likely to ignore parking tickets than those from historically more strait-laced nations. Nigeria, for example, fits into the first category; Norway is in the second.

Also less likely to pay their fines were diplomats from countries where the public has a dim view of the United States.

City statistics showed the worst offenders were Kuwait, with 246.2 unpaid tickets per diplomat per year; Egypt, 139.6; Chad, 124.3; and Sudan, 119.1. Among 22 countries that averaged zero unpaid tickets per year were Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.

It looks as if there's some truth to the old saying that someone who is honest in small things is also honest in big things. This is a useful lesson for both nations and individuals in their dealings with others.

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