Wednesday, September 24, 2008

S'pore Still Least Corrupt In Asia

Source : The Straits Times, Sep 24, 2008

JUST like last year, Singapore has been ranked the fourth least corrupt country in a global corruption survey.

It also retains its status as Asia's least corrupt country on the Corruption Perceptions Index, released yesterday by Transparency International (TI).

Conducted annually by the Berlin-based non-governmental corruption watchdog, the index studies the level of public sector corruption in 180 countries and ranks them according to scores. A score of 10 indicates highly clean and 0 means highly corrupt.

It defines corruption as the abuse of public office for private gain and measures the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians.

In this year's index, Singapore scores 9.2, behind joint-leaders Denmark, Sweden and New Zealand, all of which obtained a 9.3 score. At the other end are Somalia (1.0), Iraq and Myanmar (1.3) and Haiti (1.4).

Asian economies which placed significantly are Hong Kong (12th), Japan (18th), Taiwan (39th), South Korea (40th) and Malaysia (47th).

Last year, Singapore was ranked joint-fourth with Sweden, behind Denmark, Finland and New Zealand. It came in fifth from 2003 to 2006.

Dr Johann Graf Lambsdorff of the University of Passau in Germany, who draws up the index, said Singapore's long tradition of strong oversight is an example for best practices in Asia.

Mr Liao Ran, TI's senior programme coordinator for East and South Asia, said factors contributing to Singapore's ranking included a strong commitment from political leaders; education, which has bred a culture of integrity among citizens; a sound and comprehensive legal framework; and an effective anti-corruption agency.

TI said the index continues to show there is a link between corruption and poverty. It also underlines the benefits of fighting corruption.

'Evidence suggests that an improvement in the index by one point increases capital inflows by 0.5 per cent of a country's gross domestic product and average incomes by as much as 4 per cent,' Dr Lambsdorff said.

TI also said the index shows that wealthy countries such as France and the United Kingdom, whose scores have slipped, need to step up their anti-corruption mechanisms.

Professor Neo Boon Siong, director of the Asia Competitiveness Institute of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said Singapore's fourth position was a significant achievement.

A good ranking helps attract investments as it makes doing business here more predictable and cheaper, he said.

As to whether Singapore can reach the top of the index, he said: 'The real difference among the top leaders is not very wide. The actual ranking itself is not the main issue, because being ranked among the top few is a clear recognition the country is corruption-free.'

The index is computed with data from 13 corruption-related polls and surveys carried out this and last year by institutions like the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report.

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