BERLIN: January 25, 2017. Corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) has released its 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index showing that of the 176 countries measured, 69 percent scored below 50, on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).
While no country scores a perfect 100, not for the first time New Zealand joins the four Scandinavian countries plus Switzerland at the top of the list. Singapore, The Netherlands, Canada and a three-way tie between Germany, Luxembourg and the U.K. round out the top ten.
Out of the top group are Australia (13), the U.S. (18) and Japan (20). Unsurprisingly, Syria joins South Sudan, North Korea and Somalia at the bottom of the index.
The Gambia, which awaited the arrival of a new president this week after his defeated predecessor finally left the West African country with a reported US$11.4 million in government assets, placed equal 145 on TI's list.
TI said its findings reinforce the principle that systemic corruption and social inequality go hand in hand, resulting in a feeling of distrust with the political status quo and providing a platform for right-wing politicians.
Publication of the Panama Papers last year exposed the marriage between corruption and inequality, noted TI, and the ease in which the rich and powerful are able to exploit the global financial system "using the backs of the public good as a ladder to elevate themselves".
Shocking displays of human rights violations continue as conspiracies between businesses and politicians go unchallenged from Petrobras and Odebrecht in Brazil to Ukrainian ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, said the watchdog.
"In countries with populist or autocratic leaders, we often see democracies in decline and a disturbing pattern of attempts to crack down on civil society, limit press freedom, and weaken the independence of the judiciary," declared TI chairman José Ugaz. "Instead of tackling crony capitalism, those leaders usually install even worse forms of corrupt systems."
An end to corruption is only possible if citizens are empowered and able to hold accountable those who are in power, added Ugaz. He noted that Brazil has shown that with support from independent law enforcement bodies it is possible to hold to account those previously considered untouchable.
"Only where there is freedom of expression, transparency in all political processes and strong democratic institutions, can civil society and the media hold those in power to account and corruption be fought successfully," he concluded.