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Afghanistan, Somalia and N. Korea top corruption list

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-03

Somalia, North Korea and Afghanistan were ranked as the most corrupt states in the world on Tuesday by Transparency International's 2013 index of global corruption. Denmark and New Zealand were ranked as least corrupt while France was 22nd.

Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia are perceived by their populations as so corrupt that they occupy the last three places in the 2013 index of global corruption published by Transparency International on Tuesday.

Danes and New Zealanders have the most faith in their officials and those nations topped the annual list. The United Sates was 19th and France 22nd.

The list measures corruption within political parties, the police, the judiciary and public services. It is based on public perception, Transparency International argues, because "corruption generally comprises illegal activities, which are deliberately hidden."

The Berlin-based non-governmental organisation collates expert views on the problem from bodies such as the World Bank, African Development Bank, Economist Intelligence Unit, Bertelsmann Foundation, Freedom House among others. It then ranks countries on a scale of 0-100. The bottom three all score just 8. Denmark and New Zealand both receive 91.

The latest survey "paints a worrying picture", said Transparency. It said that nearly 70 per cent of the 177 nations have a "serious problem" with venality among officials.

"While a handful perform well, not one single country gets a perfect score. More than two-thirds score less than 50."

The organisation said on its web site that the “biggest Corruption Perceptions Index improvers this year are Myanmar, also known as Burma, Brunei, Laos, Senegal, Nepal, Estonia, Greece, Lesotho and Latvia. The biggest decliners are Syria, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Mali, Spain, Eritrea, Mauritius, Yemen, Australia, Iceland, Slovenia, Guatemala, Madagascar and Congo Republic.”

Huguette Labelle, chair of Transparency, said "all countries still face the threat of corruption at all levels of government, from the issuing of local permits to the enforcement of laws and regulations".

“It is time to stop those who get away with acts of corruption. The legal loopholes and lack of political will in government facilitate both domestic and cross-border corruption, and call for our intensified efforts to combat the impunity of the corrupt."

Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan and South Sudan, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Yemen all scored below 20. Luxembourg, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Singapore, Norway, Sweden and Finland were all above 80 points. The United States scored 73 and France 71.

"Corruption hurts the poor most," lead researcher Finn Heinrich told AFP.

"That's what you see when you look at the countries at the bottom. Within those countries, it's also poor people who get hurt the most. These countries will never get out of the poverty trap if they don't tackle corruption."

Among countries that slipped the most in 2013 were war-torn Syria as well as Libya and Mali, which have also faced major military conflict in recent years.

"Corruption is very much linked to countries that fall apart, as you see in Libya, Syria, two of the countries that deteriorated the most," said Heinrich.

"If you look at the bottom of the list, we also have Somalia there. These are not countries where the government is functioning effectively, and people have to take all means in order to get by, to get services, to get food, to survive."

Heinrich said Afghanistan is "a sobering story. We have not seen tangible improvements".

"The West has not only invested in security but also in trying to establish the rule of law. But there have been surveys in the last couple of years showing the share of people paying bribes is still one of the highest in the world."

North Korea is "an absolutely closed totalitarian society", said Heinrich, where defectors report that famine reinforces corruption "because you have to know someone in the party who is corrupt in order to even survive".

Among the "most improved" countries, although from a low base, was Myanmar, where a former military junta has opened the door to the democratic process and, facing an investment boom, has formally committed to transparency and accountability rules.

"That's the only way countries can avoid the 'resource curse', where the resources are only available to a very small elite," said Heinrich. "Nigeria and other oil-rich countries are obviously very good examples."

Labelle, a Canadian, was cautious in praising the wealthy countries at the top of the list.

"The top performers clearly reveal how transparency supports accountability and can stop corruption," she said. "Still, the better performers face issues like state capture, campaign finance and the oversight of big public contracts which remain major corruption risks."

Corruption Perception Index, 2013

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2013-12-03

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