- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2002

BERLIN (Agence France-Presse) Corruption is keeping entire nations in poverty and hampering development despite pledges by political leaders to crack down, a global watchdog group charged yesterday in its annual report.
Transparency International's summary of perceptions of corruption in 102 countries had Bangladesh at the bottom, followed by Nigeria, Paraguay, Madagascar, Angola, Kenya and Indonesia.
"Political elites and their cronies continue to take kickbacks at every opportunity," Chairman Peter Eigen said, pointing the finger at both rich and poor nations.
"Corruption is perceived to be dangerously high in poor parts of the world, but also in many countries whose firms invest in developing nations."
Seven of out 10 countries cited, including many in the world's most poverty-stricken regions, scored less than five out of 10 on the group's corruption index, he said at a news conference in Berlin.
"Politicians increasingly pay lip service to the fight against corruption, but they fail to act on the clear message: That they must clamp down on corruption to break the vicious cycle of poverty and graft."
The Corruption Perceptions Index is a subjective reading, compiled from 15 polls gathered by nine institutions and focusing on graft in the public sector.
To qualify for the index, a country must rank on at least three different surveys.
Mr. Eigen said there were undoubtedly other corrupt countries but there was not enough information to include them on the list.
Once again, rich countries were perceived as the least corrupt: The list was topped by Finland with a score of 9.7 out of 10, followed by Denmark, New Zealand, Iceland, Singapore and Sweden.
"Corrupt political elites in the developing world, working hand in hand with greedy business people and unscrupulous investors, are putting private gain before the welfare of citizens and economic development of their countries," Mr. Eigen said.
"From illegal logging to blood diamonds, we are seeing the plundering of the Earth and its people in an unsustainable way."
Other countries cited in the corruption index included Britain in 10th place, Hong Kong in 14th, the United States in 16th, Japan in 20th, South Africa in 36th, China in 59th, and India, Russia and Zimbabwe sharing 71st place.
Earlier this year, the group published an index of bribe payers, which addressed the propensity of companies from top exporting countries to bribe their way to contracts in developing countries.
It revealed high levels of bribery by firms from China, Russia, South Korea and Taiwan, but also from France, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Malaysia and the United States.

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