FeaturedNationalVolume 14 Issue # 13

Lack of an effective reformation

Pakistan languishes at the bottom of the list of the most corrupt countries of the world. It scored only 33 out of 100 and was ranked 117 by the Transparency International on its Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2018. However, neither the government nor the opposition commented on the dismal show, because it was the failure of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which was in power until the last year, while the new government, which has come to power on the slogan of “ruthless” accountability, has not taken any measure to improve governance.

Pakistan has made a slight improvement in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2018 by scoring one more point than 2017, but its ranking of 117, out of 180 countries, remains unchanged. Transparency International urged Pakistan to act seriously to control rampant corruption in the country. “The economic condition in the country cannot improve till the menace is tackled. Foreign businesses check the ease of doing business before taking a decision to start working with a country. Pakistan will need to improve its ranking in international surveys to attract foreign investment which is necessary for it to improve its GDP growth rate,” it said.

India fared far better than Pakistan and was ranked 78. The improvement in India’s corruption perception index comes in a year when Indian opposition parties, in particular Congress President Rahul Gandhi, have been targeting the Narendra Modi government for corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal and farm insurance scheme. India ranked far better in terms of the fight against corruption in comparison to its neighbours, including China. India scored 41 in the CPI-2018, which is actually a little improvement from last year’s score of 40. In 2014, when Narendra Modi took over as prime minister of the country after a landslide victory in the backdrop of corruption charges against the outgoing Manmohan Singh government, India’s CPI score was 38 and it was ranked 85 in the list of 174 countries in the world.

In contrast, Bangladesh has slipped six steps in the index for 2018. Bangladesh had once occupied the top spot for corruption in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for five consecutive years, from 2001 to 2005, but it managed to come down to 17th position in 2017. However, the improvement did not last long as the country has slipped once more in the CPI for most corrupt nations, occupying the 13th position among 180 countries. Bangladesh’s position slipped six steps in the index for 2018 — going to 149 from 2017’s 143. Afghanistan became the most corrupt nation in South Asia — right before Bangladesh — scoring 16, while Bhutan was the least corrupt with 68.

China’s rating on perceived corruption has fallen for the first time in five years, pushing it down 10 places to 87. Singapore moved up three spots on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) to third place, behind first-placed Denmark and New Zealand in second. Last month, China’s Communist Party declared a “crushing victory” in the battle to stamp out graft, while warning that the situation was still tough and the fight must go on. The party’s graft-busters detained another 23 “tigers”, or high-ranking officials last year – five more than in 2017 – while prosecutors charged 32 provincial- and ministerial-level officials in 2018, 14 more than the previous year. More than 1.3 million party officials at various levels have been caught since the campaign was launched. Eugene Tan, associate professor at Singapore Management University’s School of Law, said China’s decline in the index revealed concerns that corruption was still prevalent, despite President Xi Jinping’s campaign against graft since coming to power six years ago. “The massive ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ is probably adding to the negative perception of graft-busting as being more for domestic consumption,” he said. “China’s poor showing probably has more to do with how its intentions are perceived, particularly in overseas economic activity.”

The United States also slid down the rankings as its system of checks and balances faced growing threats on President Donald Trump’s watch. The US lost four points to score 71 out of 100 on the Corruption Perceptions Index, sending the country tumbling out of the top 20 for the first time since 2011. It has fallen from 16th to 22nd position.

More than two-thirds of countries have a score below 50, with an average score of only 43. Since 2012, only 20 countries have significantly improved their scores, including Argentina and Côte D’Ivoire, and 16 have significantly declined, including, Australia, Chile and Malta. Denmark and New Zealand top the index with 88 and 87 points, respectively. Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria are at the bottom of the index, with 10, 13 and 13 points, respectively. The highest scoring region is Western Europe and the European Union, with an average score of 66, while the lowest scoring regions are sub-Saharan Africa, with the average score 32, while Eastern Europe and Central Asia have the average score of 35.

Every year $1 trillion is paid in bribes while an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen annually through corruption, the United Nations said in a recent report. More than five per cent of the global GDP is siphoned off every year. In developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) added. The UN urged member states to further strengthen their resolve to fight corruption because it’s “a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune.” Transparency Interna­tional (TI) endorsed the UN message with a warning that corruption impacts the poorest and the most vulnerable in society are hit the hardest.

Corruption has been part of Pakistani politics and everyday life since its inception, but the scourge has intensified in the last three decades. All graft-busting institutions, like the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), were weakened intentionally through the induction of corrupt and inapt people as their heads in the past. The new government will have to improve their working to check corruption and provide relief to the people of Pakistan.