ACCORDING to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2014 released by Transparency International (TI) on December 3 Bangladesh's position has worsened in both score and ranking. Bangladesh has scored 25 on a scale of 0-100 this year, two points less than its score in 2013, resulting in a slide of nine steps in global ranking from 136th in 2013 to 145th this year. Counting from below the ranking has also gone down by two steps from 16th last year to 14th.
Bangladesh is the second worst performer in South Asia, better than only Afghanistan, which has scored 12 and ranked 172nd (the third lowest position in the global list of 175 countries). All other South Asian countries -- Bhutan, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and Pakistan -- are placed higher than Bangladesh in that order. At the second lowest position in the global list is Sudan with 11 points while Somalia and North Korea are jointly at the bottom having scored 8 points.
Bhutan has performed better than any other South Asian country having scored 65 and placed 30th from top in the global list, fifth best in Asia-Pacific, preceded by New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong. India and Sri Lanka having scored 38 are placed in the 85th position while Nepal and Pakistan have scored 29 and ranked 126th. All South Asian countries included in the index have improved in score and rank except Bangladesh and Nepal. Notably, except Bhutan all South Asian countries have scored lower than the global average of 43, which means that corruption remains a grave concern for the region.
Countries perceived to be least affected by corruption are: Denmark on top having scored 92 followed by New Zealand (91), Finland (89), Sweden (87), Norway and Switzerland (86), Singapore (84), Netherlands (83), Luxembourg (82) and Canada (81). Japan and Hong Kong are the only two Asian country or territory other than Singapore to be in the league of top 20.
No country or territory has scored 100%. Developed countries like Germany, Iceland, UK, Belgium, Japan, USA, Austria and France, Spain, Italy have scored less than 80. As many as 121 countries, or 69% of the total and 58% of the G-20, have scored below 50. 106 countries have scored equal to or less than the global average of 43. Corruption clearly remains a global problem.
Launched in 1995, CPI provides annual international comparison of countries by perceived prevalence of political and administrative corruption. It is a global survey of surveys on governance and corruption related indicators conducted by reputed international organisations. It is based on assessment by country experts and analysts, business people, business analysts, investors and investment analysts within or outside the country concerned.
Information used in the index relate to perception of corruption in the public sector, particularly political and administrative; conflict of interest; unauthorised payments in the delivery of government functions, justice, executive, law enforcement and tax collection. The government's capacity to control corruption is also considered.
Only sources that provide data allowing comparison between countries are considered. No nationally generated data, such as TI-Bangladesh's research or that of any other national chapter of TI, is included in CPI. At least three international surveys on the country concerned are needed for a country to be included in the index.
CPI is produced by research department of TI Secretariat in Berlin. Scores are reviewed and validated by the German Institute of Economic Research, while methodological excellence is ensured by a panel of international experts. This year's panelists were from Department of Statistics and Political Science of Columbia University, Methodology Institute and Department of Government of London School of Economics & Political Science, Harvard Business School, Dow Jones and Standard & Poor.
CPI 2014 is based on data from 12 international surveys. Data for Bangladesh came from Bertelsmann Foundation Transformation Index, Economist Intelligence Unit Country Risk Assessment, Global Insight Country Risk Ratings, Political Risk Services International Country Risk Guide, World Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment, World Economic Forum Executive Opinion Survey and World Justice Project Rule of Law Index. Data period was February 2011 to August 2014.
To recall, Bangladesh was earlier placed at the bottom of the list for five successive years from 2001-2005. Somalia has now been ranked at the very bottom for the 8th successive year, which may be a source of relief for us. In 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 Bangladesh was ranked at no 3, 7, 10, 13, and 12 respectively while in 2011 and 2012 we remained in 13th position and 16th in 2013. Disappointingly, the upward trend couldn't be sustained.
Factors that may have prevented better performance include persistent deficit in delivery matching pronouncements against corruption. Political and government initiatives, direct or indirect, have continued to undermine the independence and effectiveness of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). On the other hand, ACC is also not known to have demonstrated the professionalism, vibrancy and courage to act effectively enough within its legal mandate and institutional capacity to send a signal that corruption is indeed a punishable office, especially in relation to high profile corruption allegations like Padma bridge project, railway scandal, stock market, Hall-Mark and Destiny. The same is true for the nationalised banking sector. The denial syndrome in a section of the political authority has prevented the prospect of accountability which has fed into a culture of impunity.
People with direct or indirect links with power have continued unauthorised capture of land, forest, river and water bodies and the practice of loan-default. Partisan capture of public contracting has continued unabated. The high and mighty, including public representatives, have openly claimed that being in power means a mandate to accumulate wealth. Precious little has happened to bring to account alleged accumulation of massive wealth disproportionate to legitimate income of a section of public representatives. People were asked to bring 'cash not crest' to felicitate those who are 'elected.' Abuse of power reached the moral pits when the crests of honour presented to non-national friends of the Liberation War were found to be adulterated.
A zero-sum game of politics has continued to render institutions of accountability, including the parliament, into monopolised territory of ruling coalition. The period covered by the index saw all records of parliamentary boycott by the opposition broken, followed by an opposition party seized by a dilemma of self-identity crippling the capacity of the Parliament to deliver on its role of ensuring accountability of the government. The practice of rewarding black money has continued. Bangladesh has, for instance, reinforced itself as a leading customer of Malaysian second home project, a popular conduit of illicit transfer. Deposits of Bangladeshis in Swiss banks were reported to have risen in 2013 by an exceptionally high rate of 62%.
Bangladesh's prospect of doing better in CPI will depend on the capacity of the government and political leadership to ensure that the governance and policy structures are not captured by those who benefit from corruption. Corruption must be criminalised and punished not only on paper but also in practice without fear or favour. Institutions of accountability, particularly ACC, law enforcement agencies, administration and justice must be allowed to function independently, neutrally and effectively. Conducive environment must be created for people at large, particularly media and civil society, to raise and strengthen the demand for accountability. The more vocal and empowered citizens are, the more democratic and accountable their government will be, and better will be the prospect of corruption control.
Iftekharuzzaman. Executive Director, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB).
Published on 4 December, 2014 in The Daily Star. Link