Corruption a ‘humanitarian disaster’ in poor countries: report

September 23rd, 2008 - 4:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Berlin, Sep 23 (DPA) Persistently high corruption in low-income countries amounts to an “ongoing humanitarian disaster,” global watchdog Transparency International said Tuesday.”In the poorest countries, corruption levels can mean the difference between life and death, when money for hospitals or clean water is in play,” said the organization’s chairperson, Huguette Labelle.

“The continuing high levels of corruption and poverty plaguing many of the world’s societies amount to an ongoing humanitarian disaster and cannot be tolerated,” she said in presenting the organization’s annual corruption perceptions index in Berlin.

The 2008 report lists 180 nations on a scale from zero (highly corrupt) to 10 (highly clean) based on expert assessments and opinion surveys of public sector corruption.

Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden share the highest score at 9.3, followed immediately by Singapore at 9.2. Bringing up the rear is Somalia at 1.0, slightly trailing Iraq and Myanmar at 1.3 and Haiti at 1.4.

The report noted significant declines in the scores of Bulgaria, Burundi, Norway and Britain, while strong improvements over last year were identified in Cyprus, Georgia, Nigeria, Qatar, South Korea and Turkey.

Whether in high or low-income countries, the challenge of reigning in corruption requires functioning institutions in government and other sections of society, Transparency said.

Poorer countries are often plagued by corrupt judiciaries and ineffective parliamentary oversight, it said.

Wealthy countries, on the other hand, show evidence of insufficient regulation of the private sector in terms of addressing overseas bribery by their companies, and weak oversight of financial institutions and transactions, it added.

“Stemming corruption requires strong oversight through parliaments, law enforcement, independent media and a vibrant civil society,” said Labelle.

“When these institutions are weak, corruption spirals out of control with horrendous consequences for ordinary people, and for justice and equality in societies,” she said.

The anti-corruption guardian also referred to corporate bribery and the questionable methods of companies in acquiring and managing overseas business.

“The continuing emergence of foreign bribery scandals indicates a broader failure by the world’s wealthiest countries to live up to the promise of mutual accountability in the fight against corruption, it said.

“This sort of double standard is unacceptable and disregards international legal standards,” said Labelle.

“Beyond its corrosive effects on the rule of law and public confidence it undermines the credibility of the wealthiest nations in calling for greater action to fight corruption by low-income countries.”

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