Thursday, November 19, 2009

Guyana still ranked among most corrupt – TI survey

Stabroek News news item. November 18, 2009. Guyana still ranked among most corrupt – TI survey.

Guyana remains ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world, according to the 2009 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released yesterday.

In a survey of 180 countries, Guyana was ranked 126 for the second straight year, with a score of 2.6 out of 10. The country is again the lowest ranked English-speaking Caribbean nation on the list and the second lowest ranked Caricom territory, behind Haiti. Guyana shares its ranking with Syria and Tanzania.

A majority of the countries in the index scored below five on a scale from zero (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 10 (perceived to have low levels of corruption).As a result, TI said the corruption challenge is undeniable. It noted that corruption continues to lurk “where opacity rules, where institutions still need strengthening and where governments have not implemented anti-corruption legal frameworks.”

New Zealand (9.4), Denmark (9.3), Singapore and Sweden (9.2) as well as Switzerland (9.0) ranked the highest, with scores that are said to reflect political stability, long-established conflict of interest regulations and solid, functioning public institutions.

TI, which is based in Germany, is a global civil society organisation that fights against corruption. The CPI measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption in a given country and is a composite index, drawing on 13 different expert and business surveys. Four surveys were used to determine Guyana’s score. The number of indicators has been a point of contention for the Bharrat Jagdeo administration, which has also criticised the source of the data.

For Caribbean nations, Barbados (7.4) was ranked the highest, jumping two places to 20, just ahead of St. Lucia (7.0) which slipped one place to 22, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (6.4) at 31, Dominica (5.9) at 34, Suriname (3.7) at 75, Trinidad and Tobago (3.6) at 79, the Dominican Republic (3.0) at 99, and Jamaica (3.0) at 99.

According to regional highlights of the CPI, 10 of the 31 countries from the Americas scored above 5, while 21 scored less than 5, indicating “a serious corruption problem.” Further, noting that nine of the countries failed to score over 3, TI said there is an indication of “rampant corruption.” Additional-ly, with the exception of Guatemala, no country in the region showed an increase in its CPI score.

TI said although each country has its own particular context, across the board the effects of the financial crisis and the subsequent economic downturn have highlighted the crucial importance of governance in the private and public sectors and the relationships between the two, particularly in respect to stimulus packages which are already pumping large amounts of money into badly affected economies. It added that states across the region-rich and poor-will have to respond by ensuring that these funds are handled with integrity.

In a statement, TI noted that no region is immune to the perils of corruption as the world economy begins to register a tentative recovery and some nations continue to wrestle with ongoing conflict and insecurity. “At a time when massive stimulus packages, fast-track disbursements of public funds and attempts to secure peace are being implemented around the world, it is essential to identify where corruption blocks good governance and accountability, in order to break its corrosive cycle” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of TI. “Stemming corruption requires strong oversight by parliaments, a well performing judiciary, independent and properly resourced audit and anti-corruption agencies, vigorous law enforcement, transparency in public budgets, revenue and aid flows, as well as space for independent media and a vibrant civil society,” Labelle said too, adding “The international community must find efficient ways to help war-torn countries to develop and sustain their own institutions.”

TI observed that when essential institutions are weak or non-existent, corruption spirals out of control and the plundering of public resources feeds insecurity and impunity. Corruption, it added, also normalises a seeping loss of trust in the very institutions and nascent governments charged with ensuring survival and stability.

It insisted that countries at the bottom of the index cannot be shut out from development efforts. Instead, it said, what the index points to is the need to strengthen their institutions. According to TI, investors and donors should be equally vigilant of their operations and as accountable for their own actions as they are in demanding transparency and accountability from beneficiary countries.

TI said the Group of 20 has made strong commitments to ensure that integrity and transparency form the cornerstone of a newfound regulatory structure. “As the G20 tackles financial sector and economic reforms, it is critical to address corruption as a substantial threat to a sustainable economic future,” it said. TI added, “The G20 must also remain committed to gaining public support for essential reforms by making institutions such as the Financial Stability Board and decisions about investments in infrastructure, transparent and open to civil society input.”

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