Nepotism, bribery and fraud can cause economic stagnation and deepen poverty. These corrupt practices siphon off money intended for public services, which often hits the poorest the hardest as they are most in need of social safety nets. They can also scare off investors who contribute to economic development and concentrate wealth in the hands of a few.
Corruption is on the rise in South Asia and failure to tackle it will threaten the region’s economic progress, as well as efforts to share that progress equitably. Despite 6 per cent average economic growth in the past 20 years, more than 40 per cent of the world’s poor live in South Asia.
South Asia’s corruption epidemic is caused by opaque public institutions, lack of protection for anti-corruption actors and widespread government interference in the work of anti-corruption watchdogs. These are the findings of a Transparency International report analysing 70 key institutions’ vulnerability to corruption in six south Asian countries – Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Read the full press release here.
– Srirak Plipat, Asia Pacific Regional Director, Transparency International
South Asia corruption in numbers
The average score of South Asian countries in the 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index – lower than any other sub-region in the world.
of South Asians feel corruption has increased in the past two years.
of people in the region now feel that their government’s actions in the fight against corruption are ineffective.
of South Asians believe that their country’s government is run by a few big entities acting in their own best interests.
based on data from Global Corruption Barometer 2013
Creating a culture of accountability
South Asian countries lack the whistleblower protection, disclosure of public information and independent watchdog agencies that are central to fostering a culture of accountability where ordinary citizens can monitor and hold government officials to task.
Right to information: Bridging the gap between law and reality
Ordinary citizens struggle to access information on their governments. Even those countries that have passed right to information laws (Bangladesh, India, Maldives and Nepal) are still falling short in establishing the principles of freedom to information, with the report finding that requests for information are not being responded to effectively. In Bangladesh, for example, 29 per cent of citizens reported facing harassment and 8 per cent reported being made to pay additional costs when seeking information, according to a survey in our report.
Ensuring protection for those who blow the whistle
People who expose abuses of power are open to reprisal as whistleblower protection laws are weak (India), ineffective (Bangladesh) or non-existent (Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka). This is despite all six countries analysed in the report having signed the UN Convention against Corruption that clearly commits them to consider implementing whistleblower protection laws. Governments need to create simple routes for whistleblowers to make their disclosures, and ensure that they are protected from those who would do them harm.
Let corruption watchdogs off the leash
More needs to be done to shield vital watchdog institutions, such as the judiciary and anti-corruption commissions, from political influence. As long as governments can place trusted allies in key positions to gain influence over which cases get taken up, political power will remain a ticket to impunity.
Corruption Watchdogs at work: the Double Shah Scam
Pakistan's Anti-corruption Bureau was largely responsible for exposing the biggest financial fraud case in the country’s history, which saw 40,000 people defrauded of over US$13 million. The Bureau prosecuted the fraudsters and returned the victims' money.
The full report is available here.
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