Singapore has moved up a notch to be ranked third least-corrupt nation in the world, after New Zealand and Denmark, according to an annual global corruption survey.
The Republic shares third spot with Sweden, which last year tied with New Zealand and Denmark for top position. Switzerland completed the top five in the list released by Berlin-based non-governmental corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) yesterday.
TI attributed the strong performance of the five high-scorers to the ‘political stability, long-established conflict of interest regulations and solid, functioning public institutions’ in these nations.
In contrast, the bottom five – Somalia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan and Iraq – show that ‘countries which are perceived as the most corrupt are also those plagued by longstanding conflicts, which have torn apart their governance infrastructure,’ TI said.
Mr Pascal Fabie, TI’s regional director for Asia-Pacific, told The Straits Times: ‘Singapore remains a model of effective and strong political will that has made sure the public sector is clean.’
But he added that as a major trade and financial centre, ‘Singapore should do more to ensure transparency and due diligence in its banking sector. Its financial institutions should know who they lend to and who they take money from’.
Singapore has been doing more to improve transparency. This month, it was taken off the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) ‘grey list’ of countries considered lax in sharing tax information.
This came after Singapore signed its 12th Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement, which meets the OECD standard requiring governments to disclose financial information when foreign requests are made regarding tax evaders.
The TI’s annual rankings, known as the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), define corruption as the abuse of public office for private gain. They measure the perceived levels of public sector corruption, for example the frequency of bribes, in 180 countries and territories.
Overall, this year’s list is ‘of great concern’, the TI said, pointing out that most of those ranked scored under five points out of a possible 10.
What is more, shedding light on shady practices and tightening oversight have become even more critical when governments are pumping in large sums of public money to keep the world economic recovery going, TI chairman Huguette Labelle noted in a statement.
‘Corruption continues to lurk where opacity rules, where institutions still need strengthening and where governments have not implemented anti-corruption legal frameworks,’ the TI statement said.
The United States, for one, slipped a notch, to 19th place. TI cited ‘widespread concerns’ about American oversight of its financial sector in areas such as executive pay and derivatives trading.
Turning to Asia, the watchdog noted that the global financial crisis and political transformation in many Asian countries last year ‘exposed fundamental weaknesses in both the financial and political systems and demonstrated the failures in policy, regulations, oversight, and enforcement mechanisms’.
These factors contributed to a drop in the scores of 13 countries, and a reduction in the number of nations that scored above 5 in this year’s index.
The decline in Malaysia’s score, from 5.1 to 4.5, may be attributed to the perception that there has been little political will or progress in combating corruption, the TI said.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission appears to focus on ’small fish’ and opposition politicians, the report added.
Indonesia, ranked 111, still has a long way to go, but the recent tough approach by the Corruption Eradication Commission contributed to a rise in its score from 2.6 last year to 2.8, TI said.
China dipped from its 72nd position last year to 79th. But TI noted that it has launched a sustained anti-corruption drive, investigating and prosecuting ministers as well as other low-level officials.
Source : Straits Times – 18 Nov 2009