Why ASEAN needs to confront corruption in Southeast Asia
As Southeast Asia leaders arrive in Malaysia for the 26th ASEAN Summit, Transparency International’s new report ASEAN Integrity Community: A vision for transparent and accountable integration warns that rampant corruption across the region threatens to derail plans for greater economic integration. Transparency International is calling on ASEAN leaders to join together to urgently create a regional body, or ASEAN Integrity Community, to tackle corruption at the national and regional level.
“Southeast Asia is home to some of the richest, fastest-growing economies, as well as some of the planet’s poorest people. Battling corruption is an integral part to sustainable growth and reducing income inequality,” said Natalia Soebagjo, Chair of Transparency International Indonesia.
“Regional cooperation coupled with civil society and business community involvement in the development of an ASEAN Integrity Community are essential elements to ensure an economic community has a positive impact on the daily lives of Southeast Asians.”
CORRUPTION PLAGUES REGION
Public institutions in many ASEAN countries lack transparency and accountability, key anti-corruption laws are absent, and civil society engagement is restricted. Just Indonesia and Thailand have passed a freedom of information law, while many anti-corruption authorities in the region fall short of their full potential, often suffering from a lack of operational independence and limited capacities and resources.
Only Malaysia and Singapore score above 50 out of 100 (where 100 is very clean and 0 highly corrupt) in Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Almost 50 per cent of people in ASEAN countries believe corruption has increased, while only a third say their government’s efforts to fight corruption have been effective, according to our 2013 global public opinion survey.
Greater economic integration also poses a number of risks to the region that if ignored threaten to make the corruption problem even worse.
More cross-border trade and investment can create new opportunities for corruption. The increase in the lawful flows of goods, money or people across borders may be accompanied by an increase in related illicit trade.
Massive infrastructure projects underway or planned in the region also present rich opportunities for funds to be siphoned off by the corrupt, particularly when accountability and transparency standards are lacking. According to the World Economic Forum, countries in East Asia require an estimated US$8 trillion to fund infrastructure needs by 2020.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN
Bold leadership is urgently needed. Transparency International calls on ASEAN governments to recognise the need for an ASEAN Integrity Community, publically endorse the concept and the importance of anti-corruption, and establish a regional-level body to strategically tackle corruption in the region.
“ASEAN governments should take the lead in declaring and defining their vision of the ASEAN Integrity Community,” said Srirak Plipat, Transparency International Regional Director for Asia Pacific. “Civil society stands ready to support them and the private sector to realise the joint ASEAN Integrity Community vision.”
Read the report here.