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2013 Corruption Index “Paints a Worrying Picture”

Posted  December 4, 2013

By Marlene Koury

Transparency International released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index yesterday which “paints a worrying picture” of worldwide corruption.  The index measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption in 177 countries and ranks them on a scale of 0 to 100.  A score of 100 signifies that the country is “very clean” and a score of 0 signifies that the country is “highly corrupt.”  So why such a worrying picture?  Not one country got a perfect score – and more than two-thirds of countries got a rotten score.

By region, Eastern Europe & Central Asia has the highest overall perception of corruption with 95% of its countries scoring below 50, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa (90% below 50), the Middle East & North Africa (84% below 50), the Americas (66% below 50), and Asia Pacific (64% below 50).  The region with the lowest overall perception of corruption is the EU & Western Europe (23% below 50).

By country, the top and bottom places on the list were the same as last year.  The countries that came out the cleanest were Denmark and New Zealand, which tied for first place with scores of 91.  The most corrupt countries were Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia, which tied for last place with scores of 8.  The United States did not fare as well as we would have hoped, coming in 19th on the list (tied with Uruguay) with a score of 73 – also the same as last year.  Not highly corrupt, but a score that leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Those countries that have improved the most over last year are Myanmar, Senegal, Laos, and Brunei, which all went up five or more points.  On the other hand, aside from Syria, a country rocked by civil war, Spain took the biggest tumble in the rankings, falling 6 points with a score of 59, placing 40th on the list.  This is not a surprise to those paying even casual attention to the economic and political climate in Spain, particularly the scandals involving Spain’s politicians and its royal family.  Anne Koch, Transparency International’s director for Europe and Central Asia, stated that “[w]hat the economic crisis has done is allow more public debate about corruption … it is being exposed more and that affects perceptions.  In Spain every sector – politics, the royal family and companies – was implicated in graft at a time when the country is really suffering.”

Transparency International stated plainly that these 2013 findings indicate “a serious corruption problem” across the globe.  In releasing the Index, it hopes to shine a light on corruption worldwide in order to put an end to corrupt deeds and deals, encouraging bribe-free services, justice, economic development, and leaders who answer to the public, rather than to their powerful friends.  Here’s to the U.S. breaking into the top ten next year!