Little progress across CEE/CIS in battling corruption, survey finds

By bne IntelliNews December 4, 2013

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The five Central Asian republics remain close to the bottom of this year's Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International on December 3. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - as usual - come in bottom of a Central and Eastern Europe/Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS) region that has seen little to no improvement over the past year.

The two countries come in at 168th place on the index of 177 countries, which is based on expert opinions of public sector corruption. While the pair managed to rise two places compared with their 2012 ranking, they remain among the ten most corrupt countries worldwide.

Transparency International claims that the 2013 report offers a warning that the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery continue to ravage societies around the world. "The Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 demonstrates that all countries still face the threat of corruption at all levels of government, from the issuing of local permits to the enforcement of laws and regulations," said Huguette Labelle, chair of Transparency International.

More than two-thirds of the countries listed scored below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean). The watchdog says a score below 50 points shows "a serious corruption problem". Overall, 95% of countries in TI's "Eastern Europe and Central Asia" region scored below 50, compared with two-thirds of countries worldwide.

Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan managed just 17 points, pitching them a mere nine points ahead of bottom ranked Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia. While others in the Central Asian region did somewhat better, neither Kyrgyzstan nor Tajikistan could haul themselves above 24 points. Kazakhstan remains the highest ranked of the five republics. Dropping seven points compared with the 2012 index, its score of 26 leaves it in 140th place - level with Honduras, Laos and Uganda.

Georgia - the highest ranked country in Central Asia and the Caucasus - fell just below the threshold with 49 points. Praised by many for its progress in reform over the last decade, the country slipped four places in the 2013 index to sit in 55th place.

Elsewhere in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan was the highest riser, gaining 12 points compared with 2012 to move up to 127th place. Both Armenia and Mongolia also saw progress, each rising 11 places to 94th and 83rd place respectively.

As ever, the EU states of the Baltics and Central Europe top the CEE/CIS rankings. Estonia leads the region, its score of 68 points (a gain of 4 points on 2012) pushing it up to 28th place on the index. Poland solidified its relatively healthy standing with a score of 60, pushing it to 38th. Others to make it above the 50-point threshold were Lithuania, Slovenia, Hungary and Latvia.

Sitting exactly on 50 points, Turkey is the highest ranked country in the CEE/CIS region from outside the EU. The country beat the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria and all of the former Yugoslav republics, which have made little to no progress over the past year, according to the survey. With scores all in the 40s, they remain below the watermark, signaling "serious corruption".

The poorest parts of Southeast Europe - Albania, Kosovo and Moldova - all remain in the 30s, each dropping a point or two compared with last year. However, a step to the east and we're back in the 20s again with Belarus (29) and Russia (28) in 124th and 127th place. One point below Kazakhstan at 25, Ukraine can only make it to 144th.

Globally, the best performing countries were Denmark and New Zealand, which were tied in first place, with the usual developed market suspects continuing to perform well. At the other end of the scale, Sub-Saharan African countries had the highest level of perceived public sector corruption.

"Corruption continues to have a devastating impact on societies and individuals around the world," said TI in a press release. " The results of the 2013 index serve as a warning that more must be done to enable people to live their lives free from the damaging effects of corruption... Despite 2013 being a year in which governments around the world passed new laws and forged fresh commitments to end corruption, people are not seeing the results of these promises."

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