Thailand ranks 10th in Asia, third in Southeast Asia and 84th in the world in this year’s corruption index released by the global graft watchdog Transparency International. The Kingdom scored 3.4 out of 10 in the rankings, which range from zero for highly corrupt to 10 for very clean. Last year, Thailand was also ranked 10th in Asia, Transparency Thailand said yesterday. It ranked 80th in the world last year so Thailand’s No.84 position this year means the country is being perceived as increasingly corrupt.
The scores are based on perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people and country analysts.
Singapore was the cleanest country in Asia and topped 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with its score of 9.2. Malaysia was second in the grouping with the score of 4.5.
Burma was last in Southeast Asia, scoring 1.4, followed by Cambodia and Laos, both scoring 2.0.
New Zealand was the least corrupt country in the world, ranking first at 9.4, followed by Denmark at 9.3 and then Singapore.
The global financial crisis and political transformation in many Asian countries during 2008 exposed fundamental weaknesses in both the financial and political systems and demonstrated the failures in policy, regulations, oversight, and enforcement mechanisms. These two factors contribute to a decrease in the scores of 13 countries from the 32 countries/territories in the region, along with a reduction in the number of countries that scored above 5 in the 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).
Bangladesh, Japan, Tonga and Vanuatu scored significantly higher this year, reflecting an improvement in perceived levels of corruption. Malaysia, Nepal, the Maldives and Afghanistan, on the other hand, saw their scores decline, representing worsening levels of perceived corruption.
Bangladesh’s score of 2.4 continues to reflect perceptions of rampant corruption, but represents an improvement over its score of 2.1 in the 2008 CPI. This is the result of the caretaker government’s nationwide crackdown on corruption during 2007-08 and the introduction of institutional and legal reforms aimed at strengthening the government’s capacity to tackle corruption. Whether the improvement is to be sustainable will depend on the new government’s ability to strengthen key institutions dealing with anti-corruption, public information and human rights, as well as the judiciary, law enforcement agencies and public services.
Following the 2006 riots, Tonga has undergone reforms that seek to grant greater political power to popularly elected officials and its anti-corruption drive has earned the support of local civil society organisations. Tonga’s CPI score has risen to 3.0 in 2009 from 1.7 in 2007. The political stability and high fiscal freedom of Vanuatu helped to improve perceptions of corruption in the country, which has a significant increase this year to 3.2 from 2.9 in 2008. Since 2008, the Hong Kong government and the Independent Commission against Corruption have intensified efforts to fight corruption in the financial sector. New regulations were enacted and new tools developed.
Indonesia still has a long way to go to eradicate corruption but the recent tough approach by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has contributed to a rise in its CPI score from 2.6 in 2008 to 2.8 this year. The KPK has reported a 100 per cent conviction rate for corruption cases involving some of the country’s highest-ranking officials. A crucial task for the new administration is to continue support of the KPK. Local anti-corruption advocates must ensure that this agency is not weakened. The decline in the CPI score for Malaysia (from 5.1 in 2008 to 4.5 in 2009) may be attributed to the perception that there has been little progress combating corruption and a lack of political will to implement effective anti-corruption measures.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) appears to focus on “small fish” and opposition politicians. The Maldives is undergoing a radical political transition in response to national and international criticism and has introduced a series of political reforms. However, their passage has not been smooth and human rights abuses and corruption cases have been exposed. Despite the fact that Nepal replaced its centuries-old monarchy with a federal republic, drafted a constitution and held elections in 2008 – all relatively peacefully – political instability, lawlessness, nepotism and lack of accountability prevail in the society and corruption is perceived to be a major concern. An anti-corruption agenda has not become a political and social priority. Public-sector corruption in Afghanistan, which is at the bottom of the index (1.3), is rampant according to reports and surveys. Examples of corruption range from public posts for sale and justice.