In January 2016, Transparency International released its annual Corruption Index. This
data ranks nearly every country’s perceived corruption based on levels of bribery, illegitimate
government spending and lack of anti-corruption measures. Year after year, many of the same
countries are at the bottom of the list. So which countries take up these spots? And why
are they so corrupt?
Well, as of the end of 2015, the three most corrupt countries are Afghanistan, Somalia
and North Korea. Much of Afghanistan’s prevailing corruption is linked to misuse of aid money
given to the country from international donors. The Afghan government pledged to combat this
issue in 2012, however little progress has been made, as public officials benefit the
most from this type of corruption. Somalia suffers from a similar problem. A report by
the World Bank showed that roughly $130 million dollars of donor funds to the federal government
had gone missing over just two years. What’s more, Somalia’s private enterprises pay
little or no taxes to the state, but instead pay optional fees to government officials
who support their company’s interests. By contrast, bribes in North Korea are mostly
paid by citizens. For example, North Koreans who are looking for a better job must pay
a public official to assign them one, as all citizens are selected for jobs by the government.
What these three and most corrupt countries have in common is armed conflict and political
oppression, which are environments where public sector corruption particularly thrive.
The country that took the biggest tumble was Brazil, which dropped seven positions in just
one year. This is due in part to the Petrobras scandal, in which Brazilian politicians allegedly
took millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for awarding public contracts. The incident
slowed investments in energy and construction, costing tens of thousands of Brazilians to
lose their jobs. However Brazil could see a turnaround in 2016, as mass public protests
have pressured the government to introduce anti-corruption legislation.
In contrast, northern Europe saw the least corruption in 2015, with Denmark, Finland
and Sweden at the top of the list. Scandinavian countries repeatedly rank well in corruption
studies, mainly because they allow public access to the government’s budget information,
so citizens can see exactly where public money comes from and how it’s spent. These countries
also have high levels of press freedom and a judicial system that does not base decisions
on a person’s income.
Still, no country is completely free of corruption. In fact, even the highest ranking countries
have been linked to unlawful deals outside their borders. The best example of this is
TeliaSonera, a company partially owned by the Swedish state, which allegedly paid millions
of dollars in bribes to Uzbekistan in order to secure business there. However incidents
like this are not factored into the corruption index, because it only reflects government
corruption within a country’s borders - not corruption overseas or in the private sector.
But despite alleged corruption in supposedly un-corrupt countries, more countries are moving
up the index than are moving down. According to the world bank, one of the best ways to
combat corruption is to create policies that thoroughly investigate and report government
spending. Still, more than 6 billion people live under corrupt governments. And until
more countries adopt similar policies, that number is likely to increase.
If you want a closer look at corruption issues in individual countries, like Brazil, check
out our corruption playlist. Thanks for watching Test Tube News, don’t forget to like and
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