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

#18IACC: Call for workshop proposals now open!

The 18th edition of the International Anti-Corruption Conference to take place in Copenhagen from 22-24 October 2018 is thrilled to announce that the call for workshop proposals is now open. Help us shape the #18IACC agenda! Anyone interested in the fight against corruption is welcome to submit a proposal.

A redefining moment for Africa

The newly released Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) provides a good baseline for the African Union (AU) anti-corruption efforts in 2018. This year’s theme for the AU is “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.” As the AU rolls out its plan, this is an important moment for Africa to take stock of the current situation.

Perceptions remain unchanged despite progress in the Americas

In the last few years, Latin America and the Carribbean made great strides in the fight against corruption. Laws and mechanisms exist to curb corruption, while legal investigations are advancing and citizen anti-corruption movements are growing in many countries across the region. However, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2017, the region continues to score poorly for corruption. How can we explain this contradiction?

Slow, Imperfect Progress across Asia Pacific

While no country in the Asia Pacific region scores a perfect 100, not even New Zealand or Singapore, which both experienced their share of scandals in the last year, our analysis reveals little progress across the region.

Europe and Central Asia: more civil engagement needed

In 2017, authoritarianism rose across Eastern and South East Europe, hindering anti-corruption efforts and threatening civil liberties. Across the region, civil society organisations and independent media experienced challenges in their ability to monitor and criticise decision-makers

Rampant Corruption in Arab States

In a region stricken by violent conflicts and dictatorships, corruption remains endemic in the Arab states while assaults on freedom of expression, press freedoms and civil society continue to escalate.

Digging deeper into corruption, violence against journalists and active civil society

To mark the release of the Corruption Perceptions Index 2017, we analysed corruption levels around the world and looked at how they relate to civil liberties – specifically, the ability of citizens to speak out in defence of their interests and the wider public good.

Corruption Perceptions Index 2017

This year’s Corruption Perceptions Index highlights that the majority of countries are making little or no progress in ending corruption, while journalists and activists in corrupt countries risk their lives every day in an effort to speak out.

Social Media

Follow us on Social Media

Would you like to know more?

Sign up to stay informed about corruption news and our work around the world