LONDON—Bangladesh and Chad were ranked most corrupt on a global watchdog group’s annual list of corruption levels in 159 nations, released Tuesday. At the other end of the scale, Iceland was ranked least corrupt.
Corruption undermines efforts to eradicate poverty, with graft by public officials hampering attempts to raise the living standards of the poor, Transparency International said.
“Corruption must be vigorously addressed if aid is to make a real difference in freeing people from poverty,” said Peter Eigen, chairman of the Berlin-based group.
To form its annual corruption index, Transparency International asked businessmen, academics and public officials about how countries they live in or do business with are perceived.
Corruption is a widespread problem in Chad, but difficult to detect in a nation where most civil servants and judicial workers are paid low—and often delayed—salaries.
Human rights organizations and civic groups in Chad say corruption is most widespread in the customs and tax enforcement services, the judiciary and the government procurement office. Legal clerks are known to obstruct procedures to elicit bribes. Tax and customs officials sometimes facilitate tax evasion only to return later to pursue the crimes they facilitated.
There is a perception that most graft goes unpunished in the African country, despite a February 2000 anti-corruption law that spells out penalties. Bribery, for example, is included, but there is no known case of anyone having been prosecuted since the law was enacted.
In Bangladesh, government agencies siphoned off a reported $68 million through corruption last year, with the communications sector the worst offender, the group said.
Government officials and senior bureaucrats were blamed in 72 percent of the cases involving misuse of public funds in the South Asian nation. In terms of bribes and misuse of power, the police department was responsible for nearly 17 percent of money lost, the report said.
Turkmenistan, Myanmar, Haiti, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, the Ivory Coast and Angola joined Chad and Bangladesh as the most corrupt countries, the report said.
After Iceland, the least corrupt were Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Australia and Austria. The United States was ranked 17th.
London / Berlin—More than two-thirds of the 159 nations surveyed in Transparency International’s 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) scored less than 5 out of a clean score of 10, indicating serious levels of corruption in a majority of the countries surveyed.
Corruption continues to threaten development
The 2005 Index bears witness to the double burden of poverty and corruption borne by the world’s least developed countries.
“Corruption is a major cause of poverty as well as a barrier to overcoming it,” said Transparency International Chairman Peter Eigen. “The two scourges feed off each other, locking their populations in a cycle of misery. Corruption must be vigorously addressed if aid is to make a real difference in freeing people from poverty.”
Despite progress on many fronts, including the imminent entry into force of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, seventy countries—nearly half of those included in the Index—scored less than 3 on the CPI, indicating a severe corruption problem. Among the countries included in the Index, corruption is perceived as most rampant in Chad, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Myanmar and Haiti—also among the poorest countries in the world.
The world has set its sights on halving extreme poverty by 2015. Corruption hampers achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by undermining the economic growth and sustainable development that would free millions from the poverty trap. Fighting corruption must be central to plans to increase resources to achieve the goals, whether via donor aid or in-country domestic action.
Moreover, extensive research shows that foreign investment is lower in countries perceived to be corrupt, which further thwarts their chance to prosper. When countries improve governance and reduce corruption, they reap a “development dividend” that, according to the World Bank Institute, can include improved child mortality rates, higher per capita income and greater literacy.
Nineteen of the world’s poorest countries have been granted debt service relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, testifying to their economic reform achievements. Not one of these countries, however, scored above 4 on the CPI, indicating serious to severe levels of corruption. These countries still face the grave risk that money freed from debt payments now entering national budgets will be forfeited to greed, waste or mismanagement. The commitment and resources devoted to qualifying for HIPC must also be applied to winning the fight against corruption.
Stamping out corruption and implementing recipient-led reforms are critical to making aid more effective, and to realising the crucial human and economic development goals that have been set by the international community.
“Corruption isn’t a natural disaster: it is the cold, calculated theft of opportunity from the men, women and children who are least able to protect themselves,” said David Nussbaum, TI’s Chief Executive. “Leaders must go beyond lip service and make good on their promises to provide the commitment and resources to improve governance, transparency and accountability.”
Progress has been made against corruption
An increase in perceived corruption from 2004 to 2005 can be measured in countries such as Costa Rica, Gabon, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago and Uruguay. Conversely, a number of countries and territories show noteworthy improvements—a decline in perceptions of corruption—over the past year, including Estonia, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Qatar, Taiwan and Turkey.
The recent ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption established a global legal framework for sustainable progress against corruption. The Convention, which will enter into force in December 2005, will accelerate the retrieval of stolen funds, push banking centres to take action against money laundering, allow nations to pursue foreign companies and individuals that have committed corrupt acts on their soil, and prohibit bribery of foreign public officials. Low-income countries that embrace and implement the Convention will have a head start in the race for foreign investment and economic growth.
Wealth does not determine progress against corruption
Wealth is not a prerequisite for successful control of corruption. New long-term analysis of the CPI carried out by Prof. Dr. Johann Graf Lambsdorff shows that the perception of corruption has decreased significantly in lower-income countries such as Estonia, Colombia and Bulgaria over the past decade.
In the case of higher-income countries such as Canada and Ireland, however, there has been a marked increase in the perception of corruption over the past ten years, showing that even wealthy, high-scoring countries must work to maintain a climate of integrity.
Similarly, the responsibility in the fight against corruption does not fall solely on lower-income countries. Wealthier countries, apart from facing numerous corruption cases within their own borders, must share the burden by ensuring that their companies are not involved in corrupt practices abroad. Offenders must be prosecuted and debarred from public bidding. The opportunity for ensuring sustainable progress also lies in the hands of the World Trade Organization, which needs to actively promote transparency and anti-corruption in global trade.
The lessons are clear: risk factors such as government secrecy, inappropriate influence of elite groups and distorted political finance apply to both wealthy and poorer countries, and no rich country is immune to the scourge of corruption.