Skip to main content

12 countries to watch on the 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index

Several countries are at crucial points that could affect their corruption levels for years to come

Guatemala City, Guatemala – Indigenous Mayan weavers march to demand the resignation of judicial officials accused of generating an electoral crisis, 10 August 2023. Photo: Johan Ordonez /AFP

Transparency International logo
Transparency Int'l

The 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) revealed that the global trend of weakening justice systems is allowing corruption to thrive by reducing accountability for wrongdoing. Countries with higher levels of corruption are less likely to sanction public officials for failing to adhere to existing rules and fulfil their responsibilities. The low likelihood of sanctions can also serve as an incentive to engage in corruption. Conversely, strong, independent and well-functioning justice systems hold power to account by going after corrupt people, protecting the rights of those seeking justice for corrupt acts, and guaranteeing the rule of law.

Transparency International has identified twelve countries to watch in 2024 that are at crucial points in their anti-corruption journeys, either for good or bad reasons.

Some countries, like Moldova, Fiji and South Africa, are taking positive steps that include strengthening the independence and effectiveness of the judiciary to increase transparency and end impunity for corruption. These countries have started investigations into the conduct of previous elections and former leaders’ alleged abuse of office or continue to slowly make progress with ongoing anti-corruption efforts across society. In Sri Lanka, a strong division of powers has resulted in the highest court holding government officials accountable for their misconduct. Meanwhile, in Kuwait, the legislative branch has voted on a new roadmap focused on enhancing transparency and good governance principles, marking a historic first for the country.

Conversely, other countries are experiencing corruption crises. Guatemala and Chile are grappling with lack of institutional capacity and structural deficiencies that impact their responses to corruption challenges. In other cases, like Poland and Greece, governments have used undue influence over the judiciary to target political opponents or people raising their voices against corruption.

At the very end of the spectrum, countries like Lebanon have declined due to the lack of a functioning government, while Gabon’s new military-led government’s anti-corruption efforts are being met with widespread disapproval. What is more, Kyrgyzstan’s authoritarian regime is using its justice system to target critics, leading to further loss of control over corruption.

Illustration showing the corruption of the justice system with a woman putting money in a judge's pocket.

What is a “country to watch” on the CPI?

In this annual watch-list published alongside the CPI, we flag countries that need closer monitoring and attention in the coming year.

This may be due to concerns about the direction a country is taking, but we also highlight countries at positive turning points in their anti-corruption stories.

1. Moldova

Moldova (CPI score: 42) has made progress with promoting transparency, strengthening the judiciary's independence and setting a robust access to information law in place. It has also approved a four-year national integrity and anti-corruption programme and plan.

However, it continues to face external pressures, particularly since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These pressures – including political and legal interference attempts – impede reforms and increase corruption risks. Despite efforts to counter Russia-backed oligarchs, they still inject funds into Moldova's politics with the goal of influencing elections and hindering the country’s EU membership progress.

Continued collaboration with the international democratic community is crucial for obtaining resources and expertise to strengthen institutions and combat corruption. Moldova must persevere in its reforms amid internal and external disruptions.

2. Fiji

Following the 2022 elections, Fiji (52) witnessed a change in government, ending the nearly 16-year rule of the Fiji First Party led by Frank Bainimarama. This period saw institutional erosion, weak democratic norms, and a disregard for the rule of law.

Some are not fully confident about the new government's potential to promote democracy and combat corruption. Nevertheless, the government's ambitious 100-day commitment has sparked positive reform efforts. These include repealing oppressive media laws and initiating investigations into past election conduct and alleged abuse of power by former leaders.

3. Sri Lanka

In late 2023, Sri Lanka (34) witnessed the culmination of a civil society campaign seeking justice through the courts, holding political leaders and officials accountable for a significant debt default and subsequent economic crisis.

Civil society organisations filed a public interest petition before the supreme court, arguing that government officials' lack of transparent decision-making breached public trust. In a landmark ruling, the supreme court determined that top officials violated the constitution and public trust in managing the economy, leading to the economic crisis. As the country embarks on a gradual economic recovery, there are calls for enduring reforms through enhanced legislative frameworks and elevated governance standards to prevent similar economic catastrophes in the future.

4. Kuwait

This year, Kuwait (46) achieved its highest CPI score since 2015, signalling a renewed commitment to combatting corruption nationally. In September, the national assembly approved a groundbreaking government roadmap aimed at enhancing development performance and economic reform. Notably, the roadmap prioritises transparency and good governance principles. While the roadmap includes some legislative changes, further refinement of the legal framework is necessary, particularly regarding conflict of interest, foreign bribery, the right to information, and the establishment of an electoral commission.

Building on the growing anti-corruption momentum, Kuwait Transparency Society outlined 11 requirements for transparently implementing the national roadmap. Key points include ensuring unhindered civil society engagement, establishing robust governance structures in the public sector and increasing transparency in public procurement.

5. Guatemala

Guatemala (23) has experienced a 10-point decline in the CPI since 2012 due to three successive corrupt governments. Recent years have seen the misuse of the Public Prosecutor's Office and judiciary to target anti-corruption actors, rendering the state incapable of combating corruption and granting elites and corrupt networks complete impunity. In 2023, the Public Prosecutor's Office was used to challenge unfavourable election results, following a vote observed by the European Union and the Organization of American States.

The primary challenge for the new government, led by President Bernardo Arévalo, is to take apart the corruption networks that have hijacked the Guatemalan state and restore its core functions.

6. Chile

Chile (66) stands out in the index for its robust democratic institutions and transparency levels. However, its score has notably declined since 2014, losing regional leadership due to high-impact corruption cases implicating key figures across major political parties and institutions. These cases reveal systemic deficiencies in corruption prevention and inadequate punishment with sanctions.

This year presents a unique opportunity for Chile to combat corruption and curb organised crime by passing its beneficial ownership law and implementing recommendations from the Advisory Probity and Transparency Commission. Effective execution of the First National Integrity Strategy, modernisation of corruption prevention, investigation, and sanctioning, along with bolstering sub-national governments, are also crucial.

7. South Africa

South Africa (41) will commemorate 30 years since the end of Apartheid in 2024, which marked the dawn of a new democratic era. Despite this, the country's CPI score has declined over the past five years, dampening hopes for an end to corruption with the establishment of a just governmental system.

Approaching the 2024 general elections, the executive is spearheading ongoing anti-corruption efforts, including the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council to engage stakeholders from diverse sectors. This presents an opportunity to launch anti-corruption campaigns which engage political parties and their manifestos, mobilising the public and civil society to hold leaders accountable.

It is essential to capitalise on this moment by implementing recommendations from the Zondo Commission to strengthen systems and legislation, and reduce opportunities for corruption.

8. Poland

Poland's (54) seven-point decline in the CPI over the past decade reflects systematic efforts by the Law and Justice (PiS) party, which ruled until recently, to consolidate power at the expense of public interests. Judicial reforms allowing political appointments and the creation of mechanisms to investigate and penalise judges have skewed the balance of power and undermined the rule of law. These changes paved the way for further legislative backsliding, including laws affecting public administration employment and state broadcasters, leading Poland down a path of democratic regression.

After the October 2023 elections, the new government prioritised restoring the balance of power and the rule of law. However, with the PiS still wielding significant influence over institutions, rebuilding them while upholding democratic processes presents a formidable challenge.

9. Greece

Greece (49) has declined three points on the CPI, as a rule of law crisis is undermining its decade-long progress against corruption. Alleged government wiretapping of journalists and opposition figures, press freedom attacks and lack of judicial independence have led to the EU's sharpest rule of law decline.

Concerns have escalated with the “Predatorgate” spyware scandal, as independent watchdog members faced threats and witnesses were obstructed. Greece ranks lowest in the EU in the World Press Freedom Index, with strategic lawsuits (SLAPPs) frequently being used to silence journalists and hinder corruption reporting. Private media ownership with close political ties exacerbates the issue.

While the establishment of the National Transparency Authority in 2019 was promising, it’s being undermined by the government appointing its governors, long-term vacant positions, and recent resignations from the Governing Council connected to scandals. To stop the decline, the government must ensure journalists’ safety, enhance lobbying and political party finance legislation, and uphold an independent anti-corruption authority.

10. Kyrgyzstan 

In just four years, Kyrgyzstan (26) has shifted from a democratic stronghold with a vibrant civil society to a consolidated authoritarian regime, reflected in a five-point decline in its CPI score since 2020. President Sadyr Japarov's transition from parliamentary to presidential rule has tightened his grip on power, with a repressive governing style that flouts legal procedures and constitutional norms, curtails civil liberties, and co-opts democratic institutions.

Undermining judicial independence from national to local levels, Japarov has influenced critical judicial appointments and the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) – which had been instrumental in high-level corruption cases – turning it into a tool for suppressing political opposition, independent media and critical bloggers. This undue influence on justice, coupled with ineffective implementation of anti-corruption legislation, undermines the rule of law and fosters a culture of impunity within the public sector.

Kyrgyzstan's leadership must swiftly recommit to democratic principles, ensure judicial independence, and rigorously enforce anti-corruption laws.

11. Gabon

Despite being regarded as one of the most prosperous and stable countries in Central Africa, Gabon's (28) CPI performance is declining. The long-standing dominance of the Bongo family in politics has stifled transparency and accountability. Recent surveys reveal widespread disapproval of the government's anti-corruption efforts, with many Gabonese citizens fearing reprisals for reporting corruption.

In August 2023, a military coup occurred shortly after Ali Bongo was declared the winner of the presidential election. While unconstitutional, opposition leaders and civil actors viewed it as an opportunity to end the Bongo family's over five-decade rule and create stability after chaotic elections. The new military-led government stated it would prioritise combating corruption, notably by reactivating an anti-corruption task force to investigate projects that were not completed despite contractors receiving funds.

12. Lebanon

Over the years, Lebanon (24) has seen a significant decline on the CPI, dropping six points since 2012. Despite calls from civil society to address corruption, the aftermath of the 2020 Beirut port explosion has left the country without a clear path to establish a robust national integrity system. With no elected president or functioning government for over a year, Lebanon is in a political vacuum, relying on international support to survive. Efforts to combat corruption are failing, including the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which lacks proper governance structures.

Despite ongoing challenges, there have been improvements in using beneficial ownership data in public procurement to prevent corruption and fraud, thanks to advocacy efforts by our national chapter. However, human rights abuses persist, and Lebanon's political instability and economic crisis continue to worsen.

What is the global picture of corruption?

Most countries are largely failing to stop corruption – over 80 per cent of the world’s population lives in countries with CPI scores below the global average of 43. In addition, the top 25 countries in the index make up just over 10 per cent of all people. Corruption therefore remains a challenge that directly or indirectly harms most people.

Learn more