Afghanistan, Iraq Near Bottom of Corruption Index

Despite billions of dollars spent by the U.S. and other countries to improve governance in Afghanistan and Iraq, the two countries remain among the world’s most corrupt nations, according to the latest edition of Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

Of the 180 countries covered by the 2009 CPI, Iraq ranks 176 and Afghanistan 179, according to the CPI, which was released by the Berlin-based group Tuesday.

Only Somalia, which has not had a functioning government capable of controlling a major portion of its territory since 1991, ranked lower than Afghanistan, where the administration of President Barack Obama is currently considering adding as many as 44,000 more U.S. troops to the nearly 68,000 currently deployed there.

The CPI, which represents a composite of 13 international corruption polls and surveys, also included Uzbekistan, Chad, Sudan, and Myanmar at the bottom of its list.

At the other end of the spectrum, the CPI ranked New Zealand at the top of the survey. It was followed by Denmark, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, and Iceland in that order.

The CPI, which has been issued annually by TI since 1995, has become increasingly important for both companies that are seeking investment opportunities beyond their borders and countries that are competing for that investment.

It relies mainly on the opinions of country experts, risk analysts, and business leaders, both residents and non-residents, whose views are compiled by a total of 10 institutions, among them the World Bank, the African and Asian Development Banks, Economist Intelligence Unit, and the Bertelsmann Foundation.

The surveys used in the CPI ask questions that relate to the misuse of public power for private benefit, including the prevalence of such practices as bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, and embezzlement of public funds.

Each country is ranked on a scale of zero to 10, with 10 as the least corrupt. Somalia, the index’s most corrupt country, received a score of 1.1, while New Zealand at the other end of the scale scored 9.4.

Only 49 of the 180 countries scored a 5.0 or higher. The survey’s mean score was 3.3.

In releasing this year’s index, TI stressed the worst-performing countries appeared to share a history of long-standing conflict, with disastrous results on their governance. "The international community must find efficient ways to help war-torn countries to develop and sustain their own institutions," said TI’s chair, Huguette Labelle.

Of the Group of Seven (G7) major Western industrialized countries, Canada gained the highest score at 8.7, followed by Germany (8.0, 14th ranking), Japan and Britain (7.7 tied for 17th), the United States (7.5, 19th), France (6.9, 24th), and Italy (4.3, 63rd) – just below Cuba and Turkey.

Of the other 12 country members of the Group of 20 (G-20), Australia scored highest (8.7, 8th along with Canada), followed by South Korea (5.5, 39th), South Africa (4.7, 55th), Turkey (4.4, 61st), Saudi Arabia (4.3, 63rd), Brazil (3.7, 75th), China (3.6, 79th), India (3.4, 84th), Mexico (3.3, 89th), Argentina (2.9, 106th), Indonesia (2.8, 111th), and Russia (2.2, 146th).

In Latin America, Chile and Uruguay tied for the highest score (6.7), which put them in 25th place overall. They were followed by Costa Rica in 43rd place, Cuba (61st), and Brazil, Colombia, and Peru tied in 75th place with a score of 3.7.

Haiti was perceived as the most corrupt country in the hemisphere, ranking 168th and gaining a score of 1.8. Venezuela was perceived as the next most corrupt with a rank of 162 and a score of 1.9. Other Latin American countries that received rankings of 120 or higher included Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Paraguay in ascending order.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Botswana topped the list for the least corrupt country with an overall ranking of 37 and a score of 5.6. Only two other countries in the region – Mauritius and Cape Verde – earned scores greater than 5.0. Three more countries – the Seychelles, South Africa, and Namibia – scored over 4.0, while Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Swaziland received scores of 3.6 or higher.

In addition to Sudan and Somalia, the worst-ranked African countries included the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Guinea-Bissau, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea and Chad, in descending order. All in this group scored less than 2.0 on the CPI scale.

In the Middle East and North Africa, Qatar (22) and the United Arab Emirates (30) improved their scores over previous years, rising to 7.0 and 6.5, respectively. They were followed by Israel (32, 6.1), Oman (39, 5.5), Bahrain (46, 5.1), and Jordan (49, 5.0).

Worst-perceived countries in the region aside from Iraq included Iran (168, 1.8), Yemen (154, 2.1), and Lebanon and Libya (130, 2.5).

Aside from Afghanistan and Myanmar, the Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Philippines (139) scored 2.4, followed by Nepal, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, and Laos.

In the region running from the Balkans to the former Soviet states of Central Asia, Turkey earned the highest score at 4.4, followed by Croatia and Georgia (4.1). At 174, Uzbekistan earned the lowest score of 1.7, behind Russia and Ukraine (2.2), Tajikistan (2.0), Kyrgyzstan (1.9), and Turkmenistan (1.8).

Kazakhstan, which had been rated close to the bottom in previous years, improved its score to 2.7 due mainly to efforts at improving conditions for foreign investment in the run-up to its chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation, according to TI.

(Inter Press Service)

Author: Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe writes for Inter Press Service.