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West ‘complicit' in Third World corruption

Financial Times | September 26, 2007
Hugh Williamson

Western multinationals and financial centres are often “complicit in driving corruption in poor nations”, Transparency International, the anti-corruption watchdog, charged on Wednesday as it published its annual ranking of how corrupt different countries are perceived to be.

The comments came as the Berlin-based campaign group launched its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which measures perceived levels of corruption around the world based on results of 14 surveys of experts and business people.

Denmark, Finland and New Zealand are seen as least corrupt, each scoring 9.4, while Burma and Somalia, scored worst among the 180 countries listed, achieving a score of 1.4. Ten represents ‘highly clean' while 0 represents ‘highly corrupt' TI said.

The index – widely used by governments, companies and development organisations as a corruption gauge – shows a perceived worsening of corruption in several major industrial countries compared with 2006.

The UK's score fell from 8.6 to 8.4, Germany fell from 8.0 to 7.8 and the US fell from 7.3 to 7.2. Italy improved its score significantly, increasing from 4.9 last year to 5.2 in 2007.

Huguette Labelle, TI chairwoman, criticised multinationals for double-standards, paying bribes in poor countries while behaving better at home, according to an advance copy of her speech at Wednesday's launch in London.

“The bribe money that buys a champagne lifestyle for corrupt officials in the poorest countries often originates in multinational companies based in the world's richest countries – the CPI's top scorers”, she said.

In addition, TI said “wealthy countries must regulate their financial centres more strictly”, as these allow “corrupt officials to move, hide and invest their illicitly gained wealth”.

Citing examples of difficulties in recovering “stolen wealth” from the Philippines and Nigeria, TI calls for tougher rules. “Leading banking centres should explore the development of uniform expedited procedures for the identification, freezing and repatriation of proceeds of corruption”.

Perceptions of corruption in Iraq have worsened, the index suggests. The country, on rank 178, scored only 1.5, compared with 1.9 in 2006. Afghanistan was included in the index for the first time this year, scoring 1.8.

Ms Labelle said that corruption is a blight on development efforts, especially in the poorest countries. “Despite some gains, corruption remains a enormous drain on resources sorely needed for education, health and infrastructure”.

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