Sunday, September 30, 2007

Egypts ranking drops from 70 to 105 in international corruption index

Corruption is perceived as rampant in Egypt, as the country’s ranking declined from 70 to 105 out of 180 countries listed on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2007 (CPI) recently released by Transparency International, an anti-corruption watchdog. Egypt scored 2.9 on the index — way below last year’s 3.3 score. The Index examines perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people and country analysts. It scores countries on a scale from zero (highly corrupt) to ten (highly clean).
Egypt was surpassed by countries such as Israel (30), Qatar (32), United Arab Emirates (34), South Africa (43), Bahrain (46), Jordan (53), Kuwait (60), Colombia (68), Saudi Arabia (79), and Lebanon (99).
Somalia and Myanmar share the lowest score of 1.4. At the opposite end are Denmark, Finland and New Zealand with 9.4, showing fair judiciaries and transparent public finances. War-stricken countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan have also deeply suffered from rampant corruption and are at the very bottom of the index.
Transparency International (TI) is a global coalition leading the fight against corruption which publishes its annual ranking of how corrupt different countries are perceived. As its name indicates, the CPI does not measure corruption itself. Rather, it looks at expert perceptions of the level of corruption in a given country’s public sector.
The index findings are in line with a recent public opinion poll conducted by the Information Decision Support Center that revealed that 75.2 percent of Egyptians believe corruption exists in the country with a prevalence of 66 percent.
The index finds that the divide in perceived levels of corruption in rich and poor countries remains as sharp as ever, and that a strong correlation between corruption and poverty continues to be evident. “Forty percent of those scoring below three…are classified by the World Bank as low income countries,” reveals the report.
“Despite some gains, corruption remains an enormous drain on resources sorely needed for education, health and infrastructure,” said Huguette Labelle, TI chair, in a press statement. “Low scoring countries need to take these results seriously and act now to strengthen accountability in public institutions. But action from top scoring countries is just as important, particularly in cracking down on corrupt activity in the private sector.”
The index states that the poorest countries suffer most under the yoke of corruption. “But corruption is not simply a problem of poor countries, as continuing corporate and government scandals show,” Labelle pointed out. “And with the cross-border nature of corruption in poorer countries, rich and poor nations share the heavy responsibility of breaking the corruption cycle.”
She blamed multinationals for helping spread corruption in developing countries and criticized them for double standards, paying bribes in poor countries while behaving better at home.
It is not surprising, she said, that rich countries come at the top of the index because they tend to have powerful advantages: political stability, material wealth, mature freedom of information and regulatory regimes, and a relatively clean public sector.
“But despite the very real good news for these countries, there is an unseemly dark side: the world’s richest countries — the CPI’s top scorers — are often complicit in driving corruption in poor nations, and in stymieing efforts to return funds stolen by corrupt officials and stashed abroad,” she stated. “The bribe money that buys a champagne lifestyle for corrupt officials in the poorest nations often originates in multinational companies based in the world’s richest countries — the CPI’s top scorers.”
Labelle added that bribery on foreign shores was no longer an acceptable business strategy, and that perpetrators were increasingly feeling the heat. “But corruption isn’t just brown envelopes, slipped under tables or passed in dark alleys.”
Too often, she explained, corruption has meant wholesale theft of public resources by leaders and high-level public officials exploiting pliant or non-existent enforcement systems. “Billions of dollars of this money, so desperately needed for basic services in the poorest countries, has quietly traversed borders and landed in bank accounts in financial centers in some of the wealthiest places on earth.”
While corruption is a problem with global roots, good governance still begins at home. The index indicates that poorest countries suffer most from corruption, and that it is ultimately their responsibility to tackle the problem.
“The first order of business is to improve transparency in financial management, from revenue collection to expenditure, as well as strengthening oversight and putting an end to the impunity of corrupt officials,” reads the index.
The index stresses on the vital role an independent and professional judicial system plays in combating corruption as well as promoting public, donor, and investor confidence. “If courts cannot be relied upon to pursue corrupt officials or to assist in tracing and returning illicit wealth, progress against corruption is unlikely.”
Not only must judicial proceedings be freed of political influence, judges themselves must subject to disciplinary rules, limited immunity and a code of judicial conduct to help ensure justice is served.
The CPI also calls on top scoring countries to help developing nations build legal and technical expertise to pursue corrupt officials and the assets they loot.
“Aid money should be used to strengthen institutions of governance and oversight in developing nations, and to incorporate strengthened integrity and corruption prevention into poverty reduction programs,” Labelle suggested.
She added that anti-money laundering measures needed to be introduced to eradicate safe havens for stolen assets. Moreover, developed countries must strictly enforce the Anti-Bribery Convention, which criminalizes the bribery of foreign public officials, as lack of compliance with the convention continues to hinder corruption investigations and prosecutions.
“As we launch this index, the world's leaders are gathering at the UN general assembly. The results of the index are a warning signal for them, and for many, that corruption remains a major impediment to deal with poverty and world stability,” she said. “We look to them for explicit action to end corruption, through domestic reform and by supporting the UN Convention and initiatives such as the new World Bank/United Nations asset recovery program.”

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