Transparency International’s (TI’s) 2023-edition Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) “paints a troubling picture” of Central Asia, “an area struggling with dysfunctional rule of law, rising authoritarianism and systemic corruption”, regional advisors at the watchdog said as the ranking was released on January 30.
“The average score of 35 out of 100 makes it the second lowest-scoring region in the world,” added the advisors, Altynai Myrzabekova and Lidija Prokic, referring specifically to TI’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia region.
Berlin-headquartered TI’s CPI (which uses a points scale of 0 to 100, with 0 = highly corrupt and 100 = very clean) ranked all five “Stans”, and issued observations for each:
39 points, up 3 points
Ranked 93/180 countries
Central Asia’s largest economy is described by TI as “making some progress in addressing corruption issues, including through legal reforms and recovering stolen assets. However, these efforts are overshadowed by its autocratic governance alongside lack of transparency and judicial independence.
“This, together with the enduring influence of powerful political elites, allows corruption to thrive. To achieve substantial progress, Kazakhstan must make its anti-corruption initiatives comprehensive, transparent and free from political interference, while ensuring wider democratic reform.”
33 points, up 2 points
Ranked 121/180 countries
Key steps of the country have included creating an anti-corruption agency, strengthening legislation and liberalising the economy, the watchdog noted.
It added: “Importantly, policies and procedures have been established to enforce these laws and criminal charges have been filed against numerous corrupt officials. The government also introduced stronger internal control and audit tools in various ministries and local government offices, such as anti-bribery management systems.
“However, its authoritarian governance resists moves towards transparency and democracy, exerting control over legislative and public institutions, and using the justice system against critics. This perpetuates corruption and underscores the need for comprehensive reform.”
26 points, down 1 point
Ranked 141/180 countries
Nominating Kyrgyzstan as one its “countries to watch”, TI observed that in “just four years, Kyrgyzstan… has turned from a bastion of democracy with a vibrant civil society to a consolidated authoritarian regime that uses its justice system to target critics. This is contributing to higher corruption levels, as indicated by the country’s CPI score going down by five points since 2020.”
President Sadyr Japarov’s transition to presidential rule has tightened his control over the country, said TI, adding: “His repressive and authoritarian governing style defies legal procedures and constitutional norms, erodes civil liberties and captures democratic institutions. He has undermined judicial independence from the national to local level, including by influencing critical judicial appointments and the State Committee for National Security (GKNB), which has played a pivotal role in high-corruption cases. The GKNB has become an opaque tool for repressing political opponents, independent media and critical bloggers.
“Undue influence on justice, coupled with the ineffective implementation of anti-corruption legislation, is undermining the rule of law, said TI, and “hindering the effective handling of corruption cases. This fosters a culture of impunity for abusers of power throughout the public sector”.
Other authoritarian developments in Kyrgyzstan, added TI, included a significant decline in government transparency, preventing journalists and the public from exposing wrongdoing and increasing corruption risks.
“Of particular concern,” said TI, “are recent changes in public procurement laws that allow state and municipal enterprises to bypass tender processes and withhold information on their purchases. Kyrgyzstan’s leaders must urgently recommit to democratic principles, ensure the independence of the judiciary and enforce anti-corruption laws effectively.”
20 points, down 4 points
Ranked 162/180 countries
Central Asia’s poorest nation received its lowest score to date on the annual CPI.
The country, said TI, continues “to struggle with severe corruption issues”, with authoritarian control exercised by ruling elites prevailing over state institutions.
Corruption is used to “sustain power and evade accountability”, it added.
18 points, down 1 point
Ranked 170/180 countries
The country’s anti-corruption efforts have significantly declined, said TI.
Like Tajikistan, it suffers from “systemic governance deficits and a lack of independent oversight, where corruption erodes various levels of society and state, while undermining civic and political rights”.