Corruption is prevalent in Asia and may stay that way if governance, remains the way it is.
The findings from Transparency International (TI), the global anti-graft body is certain to cause heads to turn and compel governments to look at ways to improve governance, the redistribution of wealth, address inequality and entrench civil and political rights for the larger benefit of their populace.
But what really had heads turning was TI’s praise for war-ravaged Afghanistan. It National Unity Government has made over 50 commitments to address corruption, it said. TI was especially effusive when it said, the Anti-Corruption Justice Centre held its first trials on large-scale and high-profile corruption case and the National Law on Procurement was enacted.
Also making the grade away from the ‘heavyweights’ in Asia, were Timor-Leste, Laos and Myanmar, nations that have hardly had figured in conversations across the continent. In Myanmar, the beginning of the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) government in March 2016 headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, brought much hope for change with the return to civilian rule. The NLD’s proposed action to reduce corruption is a good step towards committing to fighting corruption, TI enthused. Progress however, has been overshadowed by the deadly violence in Rahkine State, which highlights a lack of oversight of the military that then allows abuse to take place with impunity. It is therefore unsurprising, despite improvements, that Myanmar scores only 28 in the index.
But, Cambodia which got worse for the second year in a row, is the most corrupt South East Asian country on the list, with a score of just 21. As space for civil society continues to be extremely restricted, TI parsed it comments saying it is ‘not surprised’.
Neither did TI have kind words for Thailand. The kingdom’s rankings fell to 35 in its score this year. Government repression, lack of independent oversight and the deterioration of rights eroded public confidence in the country in Thailand’s new constitution even as Bangkok places significant focus on addressing corruption, entrenches military power and unaccountable government, undermining eventual return to democratic civilian rule. Free debate on the constitution was impossible and the military junta also prohibited monitoring of the referendum. There is a clear absence of independent oversight and rigorous debate.
While China notched up by 3 points it still continues to languish at the poor score of 40 out of 100. India on the other hand, with its score at 40 reiterates the state’s inability to effectively deal with petty corruption as well as large-scale corruption scandals.
Sharp words were reserved for Malaysia. TI noted that embattled Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s continued imbroglio in the 1MBD scandal with an inexplicable USD700million in his personal bank account, contributed the nation’s lacklustre score of 49 out of 100. The Prime Minister’s deficient response, it added and what role this will play in upcoming elections, is something to watch in 2017