Chile and Uruguay are the least corrupt countries in Latinamerica based on the annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by Transparency International released Wednesday. At the opposite extreme figures Haiti, Venezuela and Ecuador, with Brazil and Argentina in between.
The index score relates to perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people and country analysts and ranges between zero, which is highly corrupt, and 10, which is very clean. The ranking which takes into account inputs from the World Bank, World Economic Forum and other autonomous organizations involves 180 countries. In the top 10 of the least corrupt countries are: Denmark, Finland, and New Zealand, with a 9.4 rating, ranked at number 1; Singapore and Sweden, 9.3, rank in fourth position; Iceland, 9.2, sixth; Netherlands and Switzerland, 9.0, number seven; Canada and Norway, 8.7, number 9. The CPI ranks Chile with 7 points, position 22; Uruguay and Spain with 6.7 (25); Costa Rica, 5; Cuba, 4.2 (61); Salvador, 4 (67); Colombia, 3.8 (68); Brazil, Mexico and Peru, 3.5; Argentina, 2.9; Bolivia, 2.9; Nicaragua, 2.6; Paraguay, 2.4; Ecuador, 2.1; Venezuela, 2 and Haiti, 1.6. "Despite some gains, corruption remains an enormous drain on resources sorely needed for education, health and infrastructure," said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International. "Low scoring countries need to take these results seriously and act now to strengthen accountability in public institutions. But action from top scoring countries is just as important, particularly in cracking down on corrupt activity in the private sector." Other interesting rankings are the United Kingdom, 12 with 8.4 points; United States, 20 with 7.2 points; China and Brazil, position 72, with 3.5; Argentina and Bolivia figure in position 105; Peru, 138; Paraguay, 140; Ecuador, 158; Venezuela, 162 and Haiti, 177. In last year's CPI edition, Venezuela and Ecuador ranked 138 and Haiti, 163. Mexico on the other hand improved from 3.3 points last year to 3.5 in 2007. Low scores in the CPI indicate that public institutions in poor countries are heavily compromised. The first order of business is to improve transparency in financial management, from revenue collection to expenditure, as well as strengthening oversight and putting an end to the impunity of corrupt officials, says the CPI report. An independent and professional judicial system is critical to ending impunity and enforcing the impartial rule of law, to promoting public, donor and investor confidence. If courts cannot be relied upon to pursue corrupt officials or to assist in tracing and returning illicit wealth, progress against corruption is unlikely. "Partnering with civil society and citizens is another essential strategy for developing countries seeking to strengthen the accountability of government. Civil society organizations play a vital watchdog role, can help stimulate demand for reform and also bring in expertise on technical issues," said Cobus de Swardt, Managing Director of Transparency International. "But, increasingly, many governments are moving to restrict the operating space of civil society." In addition, many countries are unable to shoulder the burden of reform alone. In countries where public sector institutions were historically based on patronage and nepotism rather than merit, reform takes time and can require a substantial investment of resources, as well as technical assistance. As significant development assistance donors, top scoring countries play a special role in supporting greater accountability and institutional integrity in countries plagued by the highest levels of public sector corruption. Technical assistance is The top scores of wealthy countries and territories, largely in Europe, East Asia and North America, reflect their relatively clean public sectors, enabled by political stability, well-established conflict of interest and freedom of information regulations and a civil society free to exercise oversight. But corruption by high-level public officials in poor countries has an international dimension that implicates the CPI's top scorers. Bribe money often stems from multinationals based in the world's richest countries. It can no longer be acceptable for these companies to regard bribery in export markets as a legitimate business strategy. In addition, global financial centres play a pivotal role in allowing corrupt officials to move, hide and invest their illicitly gained wealth. Offshore financing, for example, played a crucial role in the looting of millions from developing countries such as Nigeria and the Philippines, facilitating the misdeeds of corrupt leaders and impoverishing those they governed. Akere Muna, Vice Chair of Transparency International, pointed to the recovery of stolen assets as another area ripe for enhanced action by developed nations, noting, "Criticism by rich countries of corruption in poor ones has little credibility while their financial institutions sit on wealth stolen from the world's poorest people." In many cases, asset tracing and recovery are hindered by the laundering of funds through offshore banks in jurisdictions where banking secrecy remains the norm. Through the UNCAC, priority should be given to improving international cooperation and mutual legal assistance, expediting action to recover assets, and developing legal and technical expertise in nations requesting the return of looted assets. For many countries, repatriation of funds will mean long and extensive litigation. "In addition to ensuring adequate legal funding, simplifying recovery procedures and provisions for third party institutions to act as escrows during litigation must be a high priority," Muna added