Corruption in Asia

How well do Asian countries score when it comes to corruption?

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Map of corruption in Asia.

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Recently, Transparency International released their 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The Index ranks 180 countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption. The results are given on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

As corruption entails illegal and deliberately hidden activities, it is very difficult to measure it based on hard statistics. Therefore, perceptions are a more reliable measurement for corruption.

The index covers the following manifestations of public sector corruption:

  • Bribery
  • Diversion of public funds
  • Officials using their public office for private gain without facing consequences
  • Ability of governments to contain corruption in the public sector
  • Excessive red tape in the public sector which may increase opportunities for corruption
  • Nepotistic appointments in the civil service
  • Laws ensuring that public officials must disclose their finances and potential conflicts of interest
  • Legal protection for people who report cases of bribery and corruption
  • State capture by narrow vested interests
  • Access to information on public affairs/government activities

Most Asian countries have an average/below average score on the CPI. Most Asian countries score somewhere between 20 and 50. Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Turkmenistan rank as some of the most corrupt countries in the world.

However, Asia is also home to some of the least corrupt countries in the world. Singapore, for example, consistently ranks as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, thanks to its strong institutions, transparent government practices, and effective anti-corruption measures. Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan also rank highly on the CPI, indicating that these countries are making strides towards eradicating corruption.

Other countries in the region have seen improvements as well. Armenia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Uzbekistan and Vietnam have increased their CPI score significantly compared to 10 years ago.

However, there are still challenges in the region. In many Asian countries, corruption remains a pervasive problem, with bribes and kickbacks often seen as a necessary part of doing business. The CPI rankings for countries such as Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar reflect this reality.

In addition, some Asian countries have faced criticism for not doing enough to tackle corruption within their own institutions. China, for example, has launched high-profile anti-corruption campaigns in recent years, but some critics argue that these efforts are more about consolidating political power than rooting out corruption.

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