Corruption the bane of emerging economies

Skyline of Singapore Business district and Marina Bay.
Skyline of Singapore Business district and Marina Bay.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

S'pore among the 10 least corrupt countries, according to graft perception index

BERLIN • The world's "up-and-coming economies" are struggling to shake off corruption, an anti-graft watchdog warned yesterday , citing massive scandals in Brazil and Malaysia as cause for concern.

Three South-east Asian nations - Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar - were ranked among the 30 most corrupt countries in the world, while one - Singapore - was among the 10 least corrupt, according to Transparency International's (TI's) annual Corruption Perception Index released yesterday.

Malaysia was seen as becoming more corrupt last year, and so was the Philippines. The other South-east Asian nations all improved or remained the same, according to the index.


TI said Brazil showed the biggest decline in its ranking of 168 countries, slumping seven notches to 76th position over a kickback scandal engulfing state oil giant Petrobras. On the other side of the globe, graft allegations surrounding Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak also laid bare corruption dogging the Asian state, it noted.

Two-thirds of the countries scored below the 50-point mark out of a top score of 100. Nordic countries - Denmark, Finland and Sweden - topped the chart with their clean public sectors as in previous years, while strife-torn or repressive states - Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia - brought up the rear.

Emerging giants, in particular, showed a worrisome picture in the index widely used as a gauge of the level of corruption by governments, legal systems, political parties and bureaucracies.

  • 2015 RANKINGS

  • The following is a list of the top- and bottom-ranked nations on graft watchdog Transparency International's 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index. The score runs from zero, which is highly corrupt, to 100, very clean.


    1. Denmark: 91

    2. Finland: 90

    3. Sweden: 89

    4. New Zealand: 88

    5. The Netherlands, Norway: 87

    7. Switzerland: 86

    8. Singapore: 85

    9. Canada: 83

    10. Germany, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom: 81


    158. Haiti, Guinea-Bissau, Venezuela: 17

    161. Libya, Iraq: 16

    163. Angola, South Sudan: 15

    165. Sudan: 12

    166. Afghanistan: 11

    167. Somalia,North Korea: 8

"All the Brics are challenged. The countries that are the really up-and-coming in the world economy, they all score below 50 in our index," said Ms Robin Hodess, TI group director for research, referring to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

She noted that the Petrobras case has had a "tremendous impact... in the real uncovering of the way that the political networks and businesses have been covering up decades of corruption in the country".

Meanwhile, hours ahead of the release of TI's latest index, Malaysia's top prosecutor cleared Datuk Seri Najib of corruption, putting a spotlight on graft strangling the country's public sector.

Ms Samantha Grant, TI's South-east Asia coordinator, said the verdict left key questions unanswered, including why the donation was made. She said: "I think this case really highlights that kind of problem and the fact that while some measures have been taken, really getting to the bottom of the problem, and really working at the roots of corruption in Malaysia hasn't really been given enough political will and honest attention."

The watchdog urged the public to prod their governments to carry out much-needed reforms to end the scourge of corruption.

"Overall, we think it's very important that not only the government comes in with the reforms we are looking for - the policy changes, and enforcing them - but that these countries pay attention to people, to the efforts of people on the ground," said Ms Hodess.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2016, with the headline 'Corruption the bane of emerging economies'. Print Edition | Subscribe