- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Seven out of every 10 countries have a serious problem of corruption, according to a report published yesterday by Transparency International, a private organization devoted to fighting corruption worldwide.

“Corruption is a significant problem, not just in the developing world but also in the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries as well” said Nancy Boswell, managing director of the U.S. chapter of Transparency International (TI).

“There is no cultural tendency to corruption and at the same time no cultural barrier to fight against,” she said at a press conference.

According to the TI Corruption Perceptions Index for 2003, which measures the perception of corruption among business people, academia and risk analysts, seven out of 10 countries scored less than 5 out of a clean score of 10.

Among developing countries, five out of 10 scored less than 3 out of 10.

As in last year’s index, Finland is seen as the least corrupt country in the world, besting Iceland, Denmark and New Zealand as the most honest.

Olli Jalonen, minister-counselor at the Finish Embassy in Washington, said, “Corruption has never been present in our culture, in the public sector and even in the private sector.”

“We haven’t taken any specific measures in order to reduce this problem because it has never been [one] for decades and maybe centuries. The general public trusts, for instance, in the police or the militaries, and we hope it will remain so,” he said.

At the bottom of the index was Bangladesh, considered as the most corrupt country after Nigeria and Haiti.

Officials at the embassies of Bangladesh, Nigeria and Haiti were not available for comment.

“It’s a challenge for all the countries to continue to deal with corruption” said Ms. Boswell.

With a score of 7.5, the United States ranked 18, just behind Belgium, Germany and Hong Kong but ahead of Chile, Israel, Japan and France. Last year, the United States scored 7.7 and was No. 16.

Ms. Boswell said the low U.S. score may be explained by the recent corporate scandals.

Italy and Greece, respectively at the 35th and 50th ranks, were the most corrupt in the European Union.

Cuba was just below the 5-point average, at No. 43, while China was 66 and Kenya 122.

A U.N. convention against corruption is scheduled to be signed in Mexico next December.

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