Corruption keeps plaguing Southeast Asia

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The new Corruption Perception Index 2016 issued by Transparency International on January 25 paints no flattering picture of Southeast Asia as corruption in the region got worse over the past year.

The majority of Asia-Pacific nation keeps sitting in the bottom half of the index, with 19 out of 30 countries in the region scoring 40 or less out of 100 whereby, as per Transparency International’s measures, 100 means “very clean” and 0 means “very corrupt.”

In Southeast Asia, only Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia score more than 40. Corruption remained worst in Cambodia, while Thailand suffered a significant drop in the ranking. The Philippines remain unchanged, while there have been improvements in Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, albeit from a low level.

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, the organisation said. 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, it added.

Low scores for most ASEAN countries in the Corruption Perception Index 2016

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,” the report says.

Thailand dropped three notches to 35 in its score this year, without even factoring in the latest massive corruption scandal featuring Rolls Royce and Thai Airways, as well as another new case involving US firm General Cable Corp and Thai power and telecom companies which came only to light in January 2017.

The report noted that in Thailand, “government repression, lack of independent oversight, and the deterioration of rights eroded public confidence in the country” and added that “this is reinforcing the link between perceived corruption and political turmoil.”

This is particularly disappointing since the junta in Thailand made anti-corruption efforts one of its priorities after it came to power in 2014 when the country, as in 2015, had a score of 38.

With the current score of 35, Thailand’s global corruption ranking fell from 76 out of 168 countries assessed in 2015 to 101 out of 176 countries in 2016, on a level with Gabon, Niger, Peru, Philippines, East Timor, and Trinidad and Tobago and, notably, even lower than African countries such as Benin, Liberia, Zambia or Burkina Faso which are not known for high transparency.

Among the countries that continued to improved their scores in the region were Laos and Myanmar.

In Myanmar, the advent 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.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte’s dramatic rise to power made extensive use of anti-corruption rhetoric. Yet, it is not clear what the impact of death squads, attacks on media and violent intimidation to the detriment of democracy and democratic institutions will bring in terms of corruption reduction.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak has long been embroiled in the 1MBD corruption scandal with an unexplainable $700 million in his personal bank account, contributing to the country’s lackluster score of 49 out of 100. Najib’s deficient response, and what role this will play in upcoming elections, is also something to watch in 2017.
 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Click to enlarge

The new Corruption Perception Index 2016 issued by Transparency International on January 25 paints no flattering picture of Southeast Asia as corruption in the region got worse over the past year.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Click to enlarge

The new Corruption Perception Index 2016 issued by Transparency International on January 25 paints no flattering picture of Southeast Asia as corruption in the region got worse over the past year.

The majority of Asia-Pacific nation keeps sitting in the bottom half of the index, with 19 out of 30 countries in the region scoring 40 or less out of 100 whereby, as per Transparency International’s measures, 100 means “very clean” and 0 means “very corrupt.”

In Southeast Asia, only Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia score more than 40. Corruption remained worst in Cambodia, while Thailand suffered a significant drop in the ranking. The Philippines remain unchanged, while there have been improvements in Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, albeit from a low level.

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, the organisation said. 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, it added.

Low scores for most ASEAN countries in the Corruption Perception Index 2016

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,” the report says.

Thailand dropped three notches to 35 in its score this year, without even factoring in the latest massive corruption scandal featuring Rolls Royce and Thai Airways, as well as another new case involving US firm General Cable Corp and Thai power and telecom companies which came only to light in January 2017.

The report noted that in Thailand, “government repression, lack of independent oversight, and the deterioration of rights eroded public confidence in the country” and added that “this is reinforcing the link between perceived corruption and political turmoil.”

This is particularly disappointing since the junta in Thailand made anti-corruption efforts one of its priorities after it came to power in 2014 when the country, as in 2015, had a score of 38.

With the current score of 35, Thailand’s global corruption ranking fell from 76 out of 168 countries assessed in 2015 to 101 out of 176 countries in 2016, on a level with Gabon, Niger, Peru, Philippines, East Timor, and Trinidad and Tobago and, notably, even lower than African countries such as Benin, Liberia, Zambia or Burkina Faso which are not known for high transparency.

Among the countries that continued to improved their scores in the region were Laos and Myanmar.

In Myanmar, the advent 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.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte’s dramatic rise to power made extensive use of anti-corruption rhetoric. Yet, it is not clear what the impact of death squads, attacks on media and violent intimidation to the detriment of democracy and democratic institutions will bring in terms of corruption reduction.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak has long been embroiled in the 1MBD corruption scandal with an unexplainable $700 million in his personal bank account, contributing to the country’s lackluster score of 49 out of 100. Najib’s deficient response, and what role this will play in upcoming elections, is also something to watch in 2017.
 

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