Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) was released yesterday, the only realistic report card available each year on the governments of the world. The CPI measures domestic and public sector corruption and once again highlights how poorly most countries’ governments go about their business and how no region is immune to the perils of corruption, bribery, cartels and other practices which undermine competition and contribute to the diminution of resources. There’s some wonderful interactive visualization multimedia available on this subject which is well worth a look.
The usual suspects headed the list of both the most and least corrupt countries, with the highest scorers in the 2009 CPI being New Zealand at 9.4 (out of 10), Denmark at 9.3, Singapore and Sweden at 9.2 and Switzerland at 9.0. These scores reflect political stability, long-established conflict of interest regulations and solid, functioning public institutions.
Sadly, only 49 of the 180 countries in the 2009 index score five or better, indicating how loosely we use the term civilization. The CPI is a composite index and measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption in a given country, drawing on 13 different expert and business surveys.
Fragile, unstable states that are scarred by war and ongoing conflict linger at the bottom of the index. These are: Somalia, with a score of 1.1, Afghanistan at 1.3, Myanmar at 1.4 and Sudan tied with Iraq at 1.5. These results demonstrate that countries which are perceived as the most corrupt are also those plagued by long-standing conflicts, which have torn apart their governance infrastructure.
When essential institutions are weak or non-existent, corruption spirals out of control and the plundering of public resources feeds insecurity and impunity. Corruption also makes normal a seeping loss of trust in the very institutions and nascent governments charged with ensuring survival and stability.
Countries at the bottom of the index cannot be shut out from development efforts. Instead, what the index points to is the need to strengthen their institutions. Investors and donors should be equally vigilant of their operations and as accountable for their own actions as they are in demanding transparency and accountability from beneficiary countries.
Overall results in the 2009 index are of great concern because corruption continues to lurk where opacity rules, where institutions still need strengthening and where governments have not implemented anti-corruption legal frameworks.
Even industrialized countries cannot be complacent: the supply of bribery and the facilitation of corruption often involve businesses based in their countries. Financial secrecy jurisdictions, linked to many countries that top the CPI, severely undermine efforts to tackle corruption and recover stolen assets.