Burma ‘Next to Worst’ in Corruption

A report on global graft calls for transparency and accountability.
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Transparency International ranked Burma 176th out of 178 countries in corruption.
Transparency International ranked Burma 176th out of 178 countries in corruption.

Burma was ranked next to worst in corruption in a report released today by Transparency International, a Berlin-based monitoring group.

The report, “Corruption Perceptions Index 2010,” ranks 178 countries by their perceived levels of public-sector corruption, as determined by surveys conducted outside the countries by business experts and organizations including the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and the European Union, among other groups.

Burma and Afghanistan were ranked 176th, just ahead of Somalia, which was 178th, the lowest rating.

Burma’s military regime “controls the whole country,” said Liao Ran, Transparency International’s senior program coordinator for East Asia.

“So if you want to get things done, there is no alternative but to pay bribes to whoever is in charge.”

The report ranks each country in numerical order in comparison with other countries in the report, and assigns an index score based on data drawn from the surveys received.

Issues addressed in the surveys include questions related to the bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, embezzlement of public funds, and effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts.

China was ranked 78th from 79th last year but its index score was lower at 3.5 from 3.6 in 2009.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had warned this month about the dangers of graft, saying “I believe corruption and inflation will have an adverse impact on the stability of power in our country."

The 1.4 score for Burma and 2.7 for Vietnam (116th) were essentially unchanged from last year’s report, with those for Laos and Cambodia showing a slight decline.

Rating unchanged

Cambodia and Laos were ranked low at 154, with an index score of 2.1 for both countries—a rating identical to that of Russia and several African countries, and showing slight improvements from last year’s index scores of 2.0 and country ranking of 158 for both countries.

And though Cambodia was ranked “close to Vietnam,” the two countries are very different, said Liao.

Unlike Vietnam, “in Cambodia, they have had democratic elections, they have a parliament, Liao said. And in name, at least, Cambodia has freedom of speech and association, though they still have a long way to go.”

“Yet [in its ranking], Cambodia is not too far from Vietnam,” Liao said.

In Burma, “there is no freedom of association at all, so it’s very different.”

Corruption ‘rampant’

Countries transitioning from agrarian societies to more modern, industrial societies lack “most of the legal framework that we take so much for granted in Western countries,” Liao continued.

“There are a lot of loopholes and a lot of grey zones, and a lot of people would like to go to these countries to do business simply because there are no established legal traditions there. You can do whatever you like so long as you pay bribes to the right person."

What all these countries have in common is that “corruption is rampant,” Liao said.

“And people feel extremely disappointed because they hope something can be done. This is their hope, but the reality is quite far away.”

“The results of this year’s [Corruption Perceptions Index] show again that corruption is a global problem that must be addressed in global policy reforms,” according to Transparency International’s report for 2010.

“The message is clear: across the globe, transparency and accountability are critical to restoring trust and turning back the tide of corruption. Without them, global policy solutions to many global crises are at risk.”

Reported in Washington by Richard Finney.





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