Singapore Seen as the Least Corrupted Country in Asia, North Korea, the most

'Corruption is much more likely to flourish where democratic foundations are weak'

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Most countries have failed to control corruption, contributing to a crisis of democracy around the world, shows the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released by Berlin-based non-governmental organization Transparency International.   

The index is based on 13 surveys and expert assessments to measure public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories, giving each a score from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). 

The findings

Over two-thirds of countries have scored below 50, with an average score of 43, says the report. Since 2012, only 20 countries have improved their scores, including Estonia and Côte D’Ivoire, and 16 have significantly declined, including Australia, Chile and Malta. The index was topped by Denmark and New Zealand have topped the Index, with 88 and 87 points, respectively. Singapore jumped three points from last year to claim the third position. Somalia, South Sudan and Syria, meanwhile, are at the bottom of the index, with 10, 13 and 13 points, respectively.

The highest scoring region is Western Europe and the European Union, with an average score of 66, while the lowest scoring regions are Sub-Saharan Africa (average score 32) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score 35).

“With many democratic institutions under threat across the globe – often by leaders with authoritarian or populist tendencies – we need to do more to strengthen checks and balances and protect citizens’ rights,” says Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International, in a press release. “Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions and, in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption,” she adds.

The Asia effect

For the first time in five years, China saw a drop in its rating, and position, from 77 in 2017 to the current 87. The US too fell for the first time since 2011, from No.16 to No.22. Referring to America’s slide, the report says, “The low score comes at a time when the US is experiencing … an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power.”

Hong Kong was 14th (last year it was on the 13th position), while Japan came 18th (last year it was 20th).   

The Philippines improved the most across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, moving up 12 spots to 99th position. North Korea, on the other hand, moved from 2017’s 171 position to 176 in 2018.

The report gave the APAC region an average score of 44 out of 100, for the region’s ongoing efforts to fight corruption – far behind the European Union’s 66, but higher than Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

“The Asia-Pacific region is stagnating in the fight against corruption. A lack of progress is unsurprising given the prevalence of weak democratic institutions and a lack of laws and enforcement mechanisms,” Transparency International report says.

Our research makes a clear link between having a healthy democracy and successfully fighting public sector corruption, says Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair of Transparency International, in the report. “Corruption is much more likely to flourish where democratic foundations are weak and, as we have seen in many countries, where undemocratic and populist politicians can use it to their advantage.”