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Asian corruption: hands in your pocket?

As Asian economies go through meteoric expansion, focus has turned to combating the corruption that inevitably follows in its wake as have-nots struggle to catch up and others wade through bureaucratic red tape. The 2011 Corruption Index released by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy indicates that Cambodia topped the chart, scoring a 9.27 on a scale of one to ten – with 10 being the highest level of corruption – followed closely by Indonesia (9.25). India scored 8.67, while China scored 7.93. The cleanest countries were Singapore (0.37), Hong Kong (1.10) and Australia (1.39). The results were based on a survey held from November 2010 to February 2011 polling 1,725 expatriate business executives working in the region. There were also indications that corruption was worsening in Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

These findings correspond with those from Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2010. Ranked on a scale of one to ten – with ten being corruption free – the highest achievers were Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore, with a score of 9.3. At the opposite end, Somalia received only 1.1, followed closely by Afghanistan and Myanmar (1.4) and Iraq (1.5). Once again, China (3.5) fared slightly better than India (3.3).

The Corruption Perceptions Index reveals that many countries which faced higher corruption rates this year were also those most affected by the financial crisis. As many as 11 percent of respondents from the Asia-Pacific region reported paying bribes in the last year, compared to 36 percent of respondents from the Middle East and Northern Africa, and five percent from the EU and United States.

Hong Kong features well on both indexes and can attribute its success largely to the ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption), which was set up in 1974 in response to complaints about police corruption. – Tenzing Y Thondup