Transparency International has just released its Corruption Index 2013 which rates corruption perceptions in 177 countries around the world.   Unfortunately, more than two thirds of the 177 countries in the 2013 index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean).  The average country score this year is 43/100 – ask any school child what 43 out of 100 means on a test and you will get the same answer: failure.

The Best:  Denmark and New Zealand tie for first place with scores of 91.  Top performers have high levels of press freedom, open budget processes and strong accountability mechanisms.  They were followed closely by Finland, Sweden, Norway and Singapore, representing almost no change from last year.

Among the true power economies, Germany led the way by scoring a 78, which earned it a 12th place ranking. The United Kingdom wasn’t far behind in 14th (76), with Japan in 18th (74) and the United States in 19th (73). Straddling the line between power players and emerging economies, China again lagged with a score of 40, good for 80th position. It was equal to Greece, which despite the low level can take heart in the four-point improvement since last year, according to Transparency International’s data.  Fellow European Union bailout-recipient Ireland posted a similarly impressive improvement and came just short of cracking the top 20.  Spain represented one of the worst declines in the index, falling to 59 from a 2012 level of 65

The Worst:  Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia this year make up the worst performers, scoring just 8 points each.

There is a close correlation between low scores and poverty. Low-scoring countries are generally notable for lack of transparency and accountability and high levels of reported bribery. They suffer from poor governance and untrustworthy public institutions like police or media.  Many have signed up to important conventions like the United Nations Convention against Corruption, but they do not do enough to enforce laws aimed at penalizing and preventing corruption.

The overarching message from this year’s Corruption Perceptions Index is clear: corruption is still a big problem in the world. Future efforts to respond to significant global issues such as economic crises, climate change and extreme poverty face a massive roadblock in the shape of corruption.  Take poverty, for example. The average score of the 48 poorest countries is 28, down one point from last year.  This illustrates that the marginalised and poor remain the most vulnerable to corruption, whether it is paying the bribes or suffering by being dependent on the basic services that fall by the wayside because public money is looted by corrupt officials.  As long as corruption goes unchecked, the poor will continue to suffer most.

Source:  Transparency International