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The world's 20 most corrupt countries

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer

Berlin-based think-tank Transparency International published its latest Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks 180 countries and territories based on how corrupt their administrative and political institutions are perceived to be. The report gives gives each country a score from 100 (least corrupt) to 0 (most corrupt).

“This year’s Corruption Perceptions Index reveals that the continued failure of most countries to significantly control corruption is contributing to a crisis in democracy around the world,” an accompanying analysis stated.

Launched in 1995, the index looked at expert assessments and surveys of business executives in each country to measure the level of public sector corruption.

Members of Russian and Syrian forces stand guard near posters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Abu Duhur crossing on the eastern edge of Idlib province on August 20, 2018. (Photo: GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Four of the five-lowest scoring countries faced violent conflict in recent years, which Transparency International suggests is related to corruption.

Here’s a look at the top 3 most corrupt:

Somalia

Somalia consistently ranks as one of the lowest countries on the index, suffering from chronically weak public institutions and instability. On corruption, the country’s President recently admitted to his parliament that “it’s undeniable that there is corruption in the government committed by some of us.” Somalia is also exceptionally vulnerable to frequent terrorist attacks by an armed group called Al-Shabaab which allies itself with Al-Qaeda.

Syria

Another fraught country in the world — war-torn Syria is also suffering from weak institutions amid persistent instability. Since the Arab Spring broke out across the Middle East, Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad —with heavy backing of Russia and Iran— has retained rule at great cost to Syrian civilians and institutions. The ongoing civil war, which has last nearly 8 years, is now at a stage where a range of foreign actors are getting involved in proxy fights of world powers.

South Sudan

Independent since 2011 and also knee-deep in a civil war for the past few years, South Sudan is also experiencing considerable difficulties as it tries to stabilize the nation. The U.S. has contributed around $14 billion since 2005 to help the peace process — but because of South Sudan’s own abuses and corruption — growth and progress has completely stalled.

Here’s the top 20:

The most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International. (Graphic: Transparency International)
The most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International. (Graphic: Transparency International)

(Check out the full list and analysis.)

The latest Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks 180 countries and territories based on how corrupt their administrative and political institutions are perceived to be. (Graphic: Transparency International)

‘If this trend continues, it would indicate a serious corruption problem’

In the U.S., rising political tensions and uncertainty have caused a four-point drop in rankings for the U.S., which has now dropped out of the top 20 for the first time since 2011.

“If this trend continues, it would indicate a serious corruption problem in a country that has taken a lead on the issue,” Zoe Reiter, Transparency International’s acting representative for the U.S., said in a press release.

She added that the drop “comes at a time when the US is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balances, as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power.”

Reiter also noted that that prevailing public opinion expressed deep concern over corruption — and that “both experts and the public believe the situation is getting worse.”

In an email interview, Reiter explained that “the Trump presidency has shed the light upon the shortcomings in the US system for ensuring an accountable government.”

Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

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