The Corruption Perception Index, collated by anti-corruption coalition Transparency International, ranks 180 countries and territories around the world by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to regional experts and businesses within each country. This research first emerged in 1995, and information is gathered from surveys and expert evaluations.
The 2019 analysis points to corruption being particularly prevalent in countries where electoral campaigns have access to massive financial donations with administrations in those countries, as a result, remaining under pressure from certain individuals or interest groups. “Frustration with government corruption and lack of trust in institutions speaks to a need for greater political integrity”, said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International. “Governments must urgently address the corrupting role of big money in political party financing and the undue influence it exerts on our political systems”.
Eight of the top 10 well-scoring countries belong to the EU, with each nation capable of receiving a score up to 100. Like last year, Denmark and New Zealand sit at the top of the rank, each with a score of 87; Finland stands at 86. Other leading nations include Sweden (85), Switzerland (85), Norway (84), the Netherlands (82), Germany (80) and Luxembourg (80). Singapore is the only other non-European nation in the top 10.
France is the highest ranked Southern European nation in 23rd position with a score of 69, tied with the United States that dropped two places since the 2018 survey. Portugal and Spain are both in 30th position, with scores of 62. Portugal retained the same rating from last year’s survey but Spain has made a considerable jump of 11 places. Cyprus is ranked 41st, down from 38th in last year’s data, with a score of 58.
Meanwhile, Malta is 50th with a score of 54. Though up one place since 2018, Transparency International has highlighted the country as one of particular concern. Recent murder, visa, and financial scandals appear to have cast a shadow on the island’s economic successes. The index accuses the Maltese government of “dragging its feet” with investigations into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, and reports that the country is still “mired in corruption” two years after her death. The furore surrounding possible official involvement led to the resignation of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat last month, although Muscat has not been implicated in any way. The Panama Papers financial scandal and the heavily criticised golden passport scheme on the island – known for being a haven to finance and gaming industries – has drawn the focus of the European Union into affairs in Malta, which places a significant challenge on the new Prime Minister, Robert Abela.
Italy ranks 51st with a score of 53, indicating a slight improvement. Continued political instability, the rise of populism, the north/south divide in the country, and the migrant crisis are all issues likely to continue to affect Italy’s standing.
Greece is the lowest ranked of the SEUS countries on the index, in 60th position. Although the country still faces many challenges, it has begun turning things around, jumping seven places since the 2018 survey. Areas of improvement are focused on reforming business laws and the fiscal framework, which would contribute significantly to reforming the country’s corruption perception. But considerable optimism remains following last year’s election of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after his landslide victory.
Countries With Room for Improvement
While global leaders in transparency are found in Europe, the continent’s worst performers are situated to the east, highlighting the significant gaps that remain.
The lowest ranked countries in the EU are Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria. Hungary, that positioned 70th alongside Romania with a score of 44, has made significant economic gains since it emerged from communism 30 years ago. But the rule of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has set the country back notably, sliding 20 places from last year’s survey. Orban’s brand of xenophobic populism has led to a curtailment of press, educational, and labour freedoms, as well as consistent clashes with Brussels.
Bulgaria, ranked 74th with a score of 43, has improved but remains a country with many challenges. The public perception of corruption at almost all levels of local and national administration has hindered the nation from building upon significant levels of foreign direct investment. Low-level racketeering and high-level corruption make it difficult for businesses on every scale to avoid entanglement with some form of vice.
Beyond EU borders, a number of nations on the continent face an uphill climb. Serbia ranks 91st; Bosnia-Herzegovina 101st, alongside Kosovo; Albania 106th; Moldova 120th; and Ukraine checks in at 126th, beset as it is by instability and conflict. Turkey is in the 91st place, while Russia is in the 137th position. Although Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania both aspire to EU accession, both have been heavily criticised for their widespread corruption. And an EU decision last year to halt enlargement, for the time being, has left the Balkan region feeling sore.
On a global level, the index indicates that the majority of Asia and Africa remain mired in widespread corruption, with South America also badly affected. The lowest ranked ten countries have scores ranging from 17 down to just 9. They are: North Korea (17), Afghanistan (16), Equatorial Guinea (16), Sudan (16), Venezuela (16), Yemen (15), Syria (13), South Sudan (12), and Somalia (9).
“The lack of real progress against corruption in most countries is disappointing and has profound negative effects on citizens around the world”, said Patricia Moreira, Managing Director of Transparency International. “To have any chance of ending corruption and improving peoples’ lives, we must tackle the relationship between politics and big money. All citizens must be represented in decision making.”