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CPI 2019: Asia Pacific

A regional average of 45 on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), after many consecutive years of an average score of 44, illustrates general stagnation across the Asia Pacific. Despite the presence of high performers like New Zealand (87), Singapore (85), Australia (77), Hong Kong (76) and Japan (73), the Asia Pacific region hasn’t witnessed substantial progress in anti-corruption efforts or results. In addition, low performers like Afghanistan (16), North Korea (17) and Cambodia (20) continue to highlight serious challenges in the region.

Economic Openness, Weak Civil Rights

While often seen as an engine of the global economy, in terms of political integrity and governance, the region performs only marginally better than the global average. Many countries see economic openness as a way forward, however, governments across the region, from China to Cambodia to Vietnam, continue to restrict participation in public affairs, silence dissenting voices and keep decision-making out of public scrutiny.

Given these issues, it comes as no surprise that vibrant economic powers like China (41), Indonesia (40), Vietnam (37), the Philippines (34) and others continue to struggle to tackle corruption.

Opaque Political Finance And Lobbying

Even in democracies, such as Australia and India, unfair and opaque political financing and undue influence in decision-making and lobbying by powerful corporate interest groups, result in stagnation or decline in control of corruption.

Country To Watch: Indonesia

With a score of 40, Indonesia improves by two points on the CPI. A promising emerging economy is coupled with repression of civil society and weak oversight institutions. The independence and effectiveness of Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission, the KPK, is currently being thwarted by the government.

The Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK) is seen as a symbol of progress and modernisation, but is undergoing a loss of autonomy and power. President Widodo’s own agenda, which prioritises foreign investment and a booming economy. With corruption issues in the limelight, Indonesia risks scaring off investors and slowing economic progress. Paradoxically, this contradicts the government’s aspirations and President Widodo’s own agenda, which prioritises foreign investment and a booming economy. With corruption issues in the limelight, Indonesia risks scaring off investors and slowing economic progress. Read more.

The re-election of President Joko Widodo was a setback to political integrity that surprised many, undercutting the impressive democratic and anti-corruption resurgence the country experienced in the last few years.

Country To Watch: Papua New Guinea

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With a score of 28, Papua New Guinea remains stagnant on the CPI. However, despite low performance on the CPI for years, recent anti-corruption developments are encouraging.

Following the removal of former Prime Minister O’Neill, currently being investigated for alleged corruption, the government instituted structural changes and introduced new legislation to establish an Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC). Together, these small improvements give citizens a reason for optimism. Under the current leadership of Prime Minister Marape, the government should uphold its previous commitments, as well as its 20-year anti-corruption strategy established in 2012, and work to investigate and punish bribery, fraud, conflicts of interest, nepotism and other corrupt acts. Read more.

More progress is needed to make real change in Papua New Guinea and civil society organisations must remain vigilant in holding the government accountable.

Image: Reuters / David Gray

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