Map: The most- and least-corrupt countries in the world

December 5, 2012

Corruption can often be hard to track, so each year, one watchdog group puts all of the bribery, back-room deals and other nefarious practices going on in the world on one technicolor map.

Transparency International just released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index on the perceived level of public sector corruption in 176 countries around the world, and once again, Somalia, North Korea and Afghanistan rank as most corrupt, with scores of 8. (Burma, also known as Myanmar, joined them last year but has since moved up two spots, to just ahead of Sudan).

Here's the map -- darker red means more corrupt.


Screenshot: Transparency International

The ranking is based on a number of surveys that seek to gauge hard-to-find metrics like bribes paid to government officials or transparency in corporate reporting. Denmark, New Zealand and Finland are tied for least corrupt this year, and they were also the top three last year. The United States is 19th.

Read more about corruption in our interview with chess champion Garry Kasparov.

With so much to take in, the organization highlighted a few interesting glimpses at corruption around the world:

Egypt

Egypt dropped to 118 from 112, perhaps because President Mohammed Morsi's new government still shows signs of the previous regime's authoritarianism.  writes:

Massive protests are still continuing against the newly elected president Mohamed Morsi  – with his latest expansion of presidential powers and slow-moving efforts to recover stolen assets from the former regime back to the Egyptian people. This is reflected in Egypt’s significant drop on the latest Corruption Perceptions Index.

Finland

Although Finland ranks near the top, Transparency International Finland chair  points out that even it's not free of shady dealings among government and corporate officials. Though Finland clearly doesn't have major corruption issues, it can be somewhat of an "old boy's network," where a small group of elites sit on the same state-owned companies and sometimes engage in nontransparent business dealings:

Mika Vehviläinen, CEO of Finnair, sold his apartment for about 1.8 million euros to the insurance company run by Finnair’s chair at a time when the insurance company also founded a cargo airline. Vehviläinen continued to live in the apartment after it was sold with Finnair paying his 6,800 Euro rent, which brought him considerable tax benefits.

 

Latin America

Two-thirds of Latin American countries fell below the middle of the rankings. The dramatic income inequality, drug violence and weak democratic governance there all add up to extreme cases of corruption. Alejandro Salas writes:

Guatemala has a record 98 per cent impunity rate, showing a dramatic lack of justice in the country. In Mexico, seven journalists have beenmurdered up to mid-November in this year alone for doing their job. During the 2012 Venezuelan presidential campaign, President Chavez’ abuse of state resources shows that out of 5271 minutes of airtime that he used, according to law, to transmit issues of state affairs from January to July, more than three-quarters were broadcast in July alone, when the official campaign period started.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan ranks as one of the most corrupt countries, and it seems bribes and fraud permeate nearly every level of life there. One Afghan in seven paid a bribe in 2010, and the average bribe is equal to one third of the average Afghan salary. A recent report found that high-level political interference and institutional failures thwarted efforts to probe the 2010 collapse of Afghanistan’s Kabul Bank, recover hundreds of millions of dollars from fraudulent loans and prosecute the people who profited, the Washington Post's Pamela Constable reported. The Transparency International authors concluded last year, "Corruption, weak institutions and a lack of economic development pose a fatal threat to the viability of Afghanistan," and it seems the situation this year is sadly no different.


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Olga Khazan · December 5, 2012