Asia Pacific: Fighting corruption is side-lined

Asia Pacific: Fighting corruption is side-lined

Regional analysis by Kate Hanlon, Transparency International

The majority of Asia Pacific countries sit in the bottom half of the Corruption Perceptions Index 2016. 19 out of 30 countries in the region scored 40 or less out of 100. 

Poor performance can be attributed to unaccountable governments, lack of oversight, insecurity and shrinking space for civil society, pushing anti-corruption action to the margins in those countries. High-profile corruption scandals, in addition to everyday corruption issues, continue to undermine public trust in government, the benefits of democracy and the rule of law.

Who has improved?

Afghanistan has moved up four points in its score (15 out of 100). While it remains one of the 10 very corrupt countries on the index, its score is nearly the double from 2013 (8 out of 100). 

The National Unity Government has made over 50 commitments to address corruption, promising change to the people of Afghanistan. There has been some progress. The Anti-Corruption Justice Centre held its first trials on large-scale and high-profile corruption cases, and the National Law on Procurement was enacted. The government must follow up on these commitments.

Timor-Leste, Laos and Myanmar continued to improve their scores in 2016. In Myanmar, the beginning of the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) government in March 2016, headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, brought much hope for change with the return to civilian rule. The NLD proposed action to reduce corruption, which is a good step towards committing to fighting corruption. However, progress has been overshadowed by the deadly violence in Rahkine State. This highlights a lack of oversight of the military, which allows abuse to take place with impunity. It is therefore unsurprising, despite improvements, that Myanmar scores only 28 in the index.

Who got worse?

Cambodia, for the second year in a row, is the most corrupt South East Asian country on the list, with a score of 21. As space for civil society continues to be extremely restricted, this is not surprising.

Thailand dropped to 35 in its score this year, reinforcing the link between perceived corruption and political turmoil. Government repression, lack of independent oversight, and the deterioration of rights eroded public confidence in the country.

Thailand's new constitution, while it places significant focus on addressing corruption, entrenches military power and unaccountable government, undermining eventual return to democratic civilian rule. Free debate on the constitution was impossible; campaigning in opposition was banned and dozens of people were detained. The military junta also prohibited monitoring of the referendum. There is a clear absence of independent oversight and rigorous debate.

2017 Watch list

China increased by 3 points but remains at the poor score of 40 out of 100. In recent years, China has focused its anti-corruption efforts on catching “tigers and flies” – corrupt public officials big and small. This cannot come at the expense of transparency and independent oversight. Efforts to fight corruption must include a holistic approach involving civil society as well as the private sector.

Australia remains outside the top 10 countries on the index for the third consecutive year. Australia’s performance is marred by the recent foreign bribery scandals and threats to independent institutions. Following the report of the Australia Human Rights Commission (AHRC), which documents evidence of profound physical and sexual abuse in asylum seeker detention centres, the AHRC president’s credibility and integrity was unrelentingly attacked. Such intimidation undermines the independence of institutions like the AHRC, which are critical to functioning democracy. 

India’s ongoing poor performance with a score of 40 reiterates the state’s inability to effectively deal with petty corruption as well as large-scale corruption scandals. The impact of corruption on poverty, illiteracy and police brutality shows that not only the economy is growing – but also inequality. 

Some of the biggest stories of 2016 are in the “too soon to tell” category:

 

Image: Creative Commons, Flickr / Teddy Cross

Correction 13 September 2017: This post has been amended in order to reflect revised 2015 CPI scores. South Korea's score did not drop by 3 points but by 1 point.

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

Latest

Support Transparency International

Support Us

Power for Nigeria’s people

Bribery in electricity supply ruins livelihoods, but Nigeria’s residents are speaking out.

The terrible consequences of police corruption in South Africa

What do we do when those mandated to protect us are serving other interests than public safety and security? In South Africa, police corruption leaves the public exposed to high rates of crime, and causes distrust of the police service while allowing crime to flourish.

Why do DRC citizens report such high levels of corruption?

People's experiences with corruption in the DRC are far worse than in most other African countries. Why is corruption so prevalent in the DRC, why is bribery so commonplace and why do two thirds of citizens feel powerless?

Three ways to stop money laundering through real estate

Around the world, buying property is a favourite method for the corrupt to launder their ill-gotten gains. However, there are concrete measures that make it significantly more difficult for the corrupt to stash their dirty money in real estate.

Announcing the theme for the 19th edition of the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC)

Designing 2030: Truth, Trust & Transparency

Protecting Africa’s wildlife from corruption

When they deliberate over amendments to the global wildlife trade regime, CoP18 must address impunity for illegal timber trafficking in Africa as a matter of high priority.

How the US can help Mongolia get to grips with corruption

A series of bi-lateral meetings and a proposed trade agreement present an opportunity for the US to promote rule of law and an independent judiciary in Mongolia.

Blood diamonds and land corruption in Sierra Leone

A community in Sierra Leone has created powerful short videos documenting their experiences of corruption, forced evictions and a botched resettlement programme at the hands of a multinational diamond mining company.

Countries must be more transparent when investigating transnational corruption

Supervisory and justice systems should be transparent and accountable so that the public can assess their performance.

Resilient institutions

Reducing corruption is an important component of the sustainable development agenda, and one that all state parties have an obligation to address. Although corruption is often thought of as a ‘third-world problem’, institutions in the Global North play an important role in the corruption cycle, and are therefore an essential part of the solutions.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media