Freeman Cebu Business

More work needed to win corruption

INTEGRITY BEAT - Henry Schumacker - The Freeman

A few days ago, the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index was published by Transparency International. It measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories.

Drawing on 13 surveys of businesspeople and expert assessments, the index scores on a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

The results paint a sadly familiar picture: more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, while the average score is just 43. Perhaps most disturbing is that the vast majority of countries assessed have made little to no progress. Only 20 have made significant progress in recent years. As long as corruption continues to go largely unchecked, democracy is under threat around the world.

“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,” said Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International. “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.” Citizens demand transparency.

Recent anti-corruption protests from Mongolia to Romania to Guatemala have made clear the public’s outrage with politicians’ abuse of office and attempts to limit their own accountability. Voters’ frustration with corruption has also reshaped the politics of several countries in the past few years. The leaders riding waves of discontent to positions of power must pay more than lip-service to anti-corruption; it should enter the DNA of their policies and reforms.

“Our research makes a clear link between having a healthy democracy and successfully fighting public sector corruption,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair of Transparency International. “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 capture democratic institutions and use them to their advantage.”

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, all of which typically contribute to higher rates of corruption. However, with two countries in the top 10, and two in the bottom 10, the region is highly diverse in its anti-corruption approach.

Which countries of Asia-Pacific are in the top 10? – New Zealand and Singapore – with Rank 2 and 3, and with a Score (look at the second paragraph above) of 87 and 85 (of a possible 100).

Which countries of Asia-Pacific are in the bottom 10? – Afghanistan and North Korea – with Rank 172 and 176, and with a Score of 16 and 14.

And where do we find the Philippines? Rank 99 -- which the Philippines shares with Thailand, and with a Scope of 36 (of a possible 100).

Where are our competitors in the Region?

Score                     Rank

Malaysia              47                           61

Indonesia            38                           89

Vietnam               33                           117

Laos                       29                           132

Myanmar            29                           132

Cambodia            20                           161

Plenty of work to do in the Philippines and competing countries in ASEAN to improve the Corruption Perception Index, given the fact that foreign investors do not want to be confronted with corruption, affecting their competitiveness.

Feedback is welcome – please contact me at Schumacher@eitsc.com

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