Somalia, N.Korea, Afghanistan Lead Corrupt State Index

Somalia is the most corrupt state in the world, according to the latest index compiled by the Berlin-based corruption watchdog Transparency International. The group polled thousands of people in 177 countries about their perception of corruption. The results revealed strong progress in some African states but high levels of bribery and abuse of power in conflict-ridden countries like Syria and Afghanistan.

Somalia, Afghanistan and North Korea each scored just eight points out of 100 in Transparency International's 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, where a score of 100 corresponds to a total lack of corruption. The report's release on Tuesday came just a day after lawmakers in Mogadishu voted to oust the Somali government following a power struggle over allegations of favoritism and clan politics. Somalia’s government is also battling an insurgency by Islamist al-Shabab militants.

The worst performers are usually countries undergoing conflict, said Robert Barrington, executive director of Transparency International.

"You find a closing down of the transparency in government and, in particular, you find a complete lack of accountability. The institutions of the state start to dissolve. And it's the citizens that suffer," said Barrington.

Barrington also pointed out the importance of law enforcement in perceptions of corruption.

"In some countries, in most countries, you would hope that when you go to the police, they are your allies in the fight against crime. But in many countries, you actually find they are your enemies in the fight against crime. They are themselves the criminals," said Barrington.

Barrington also pointed out that there were some positive stories in this year's survey.

"Rwanda is a particularly interesting one because it did perform quite poorly for a number of years, but there's been a concerted government effort to tackle corruption, and that's now reaping rewards," said Barrington.

Syria, with a protracted civil war, has slipped further down the corruption index. It's now 10th from the bottom. Iraq -- also witnessing a surge in violence -- is also in the bottom ten, as is Afghanistan.

Ukraine ranked 144th on the index, one of the worst scores for its region, which included Europe, Russia and most of the former Soviet states. In recent days, anti-government protesters have taken to the streets trying to force new elections.

Just a decade ago, Liberia was racked by civil war. Now the economy is booming, with GDP growing more than 10 percent in 2012. Liberia came in 83rd out of 177 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. That is good compared to much of Africa, but some analysts say corruption is still holding the country back.

Robtel Pailey wrote a children's book about corruption titled Gbagba, or "Trickery." She's a Liberian national and a scholar at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies, and said that the younger generations must be made aware that corruption should not be tolerated.

"In the private sector, it happens in the markets. It happens in the schools; it happens in government. So I would argue certainly that it's entrenched, and I think this is a common phenomenon, that people accept as being entrenched," said Pailey.

Pailey thinks cutting corruption will require a change in mindset.

"I think in many ways Liberians think of corruption as about a way to get ahead of the system, a way to bypass the system," explained Pailey.

The best performers in the 2013 Index were New Zealand and Denmark; Scandinavian countries consistently among the least corrupt. The United States came in 19th.

VOA News / Dec. 04, 2013 08:02 KST