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There are a few factors that could improve Malaysia’s Corruption Perception Index ranking. FILE PIC

THE United Nations General Assembly had declared Dec 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day. The objective of this day, to be observed annually, is to create awareness about the negative effects of corruption and the need to prevent and fight it.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will celebrate the event by holding integrity seminars.

Perlis MACC will erect billboards at the Malaysian-Thai border with the cooperation of the Thai National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

Next month, the global anti-corruption organisation, Transparency International, will release its 2019 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), an annual survey that looks at the perception of corruption in 180 countries.

The CPI is the leading global indicator of public sector corruption, offering a snapshot of the relative degree of corruption by ranking countries from all over the globe.

The annual CPI has become one of the most widely recognised indicators of corruption worldwide.

A country’s rank indicates its position relative to the other countries in the index; the smaller the number the less corrupt a country is perceived to be.

A country’s score, on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean), indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption.

Based on previous records, more than two-thirds of countries score below 50 in the CPI, with an average of just 43.

This clearly reveals that the failure of most countries to control corruption is contributing to a crisis in democracy around the world.

The data showed that despite some progress, most countries are failing to make serious inroads in the fight against corruption.

Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair for Transparency International, said that corruption is much more likely to flourish where democratic foundations are weak and, as we have seen in many countries, where undemocratic and populist politicians can use it to their advantage.

Every year, US$1 trillion is paid in bribes and an estimated US$2.6 trillion is stolen through corruption of a sum equivalent to more than five per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP).

In developing countries, according to the United Nations Development Programme, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.


Worldwide, Denmark is positioned in the top spot with 88 points, while New Zealand ranked second with 87 points.

Finland, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland shared third spot with 85 points.

But one should take note that no country in the world is completely free of corruption, according to the latest report by TI.

Even Denmark has experienced recent corruption cases, such as a money-laundering scandal surrounding Danske Bank, its biggest lender.

The countries that scored the lowest were Somalia, Syria and South Sudan.

Somalia ranked 180th with a score of 10 on the CPI last year.

Syria and South Sudan ranked 178 with a score of 13.


The United Kindgom and Germany were ranked 11th, scoring 80 points each.

Australia, meanwhile, took 13th place by scoring 77 points.

The United States ranked 22nd with a score of 71, while China was ranked 87th with 39 points.


It is interesting to note the trend in fighting corruption in Muslim and Muslim-majority countries.

The 2018 CPI results clearly showed there is no Muslim country ranked in the top 20 (of being least corrupt) out of the 180 countries surveyed.

The top Muslim country is the United Arab Emirates, which took 23th place with a score of 70.

Brunei, meanwhile, came in second, ranked 31st with a score of 63, followed by Qatar ranked 62nd, with a score of 33, while Malaysia is the seventh least corrupt country among Muslim nations.

Indonesia is in 89th position with a score of 38.


Among Asean countries, Ma-laysia is among the top three after Singapore and Brunei in the CPI for last year.

Malaysia had improved and gone up one place to 61st out of 180 countries.

It, however, maintained a score of 47 points in the corruption index, just like in 2017.

Malaysia stood below Singapore (third) and Brunei (31st), but above Indonesia (89th), Thailand (99th), the Philippines (99th), Vietnam (117th), Myanmar (132nd), Laos (132nd) and Cambodia (161st).

In fact, Malaysia did very well in 2014 with a ranking at 50th and a score of 52 out of 100.

But after that, it began to fall when corruption in Malaysia was at a worrying level.

Part of the reason is that Malaysia was plagued by a series of high-profile political corruption scandals.

Malaysians had the worst perception of their government’s performance in fighting corruption.

The 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal involved the diversion of billions of dollars from a state investment fund.

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was arrested and charged last year.


Among the criteria used to determine rankings are robust rule of law, independent oversight institutions and a broad societal consensus against the misuse of public office and resources for private interests.

It is widely accepted that the practice of good governance contributes to economic development and higher investment in any country.

Furthermore, studies show that there is a correlation between CPI standing and economic growth.

CPI standing is an important factor and can influence the rate of investment as investors increasingly recognise the evils of corruption and are likely to stay away from corrupt countries.

In 2019, Klaus Gründler & Niklas Potrafke, in an article, “Corruption and Economic Growth: New Empirical Evidence”, found that the cumulative long-run effect of corruption on growth is that real per capita GDP decreased by 17 per cent when the reversed CPI increased by one standard deviation.

The effect of corruption on economic growth is especially pronounced in autocracies and affected growth by decreasing foreign direct investment and increasing inflation.

We have to work hard to rectify this corruption perception and, perhaps, we can learn from the experiences and strategies on how to fight corruption from the least corrupt countries in the world, such as Denmark and New Zealand.

They have leaders with integrity, good governance, easy access to information system, improved accountability in the public sector, openness of contracts and independent oversight committees to monitor the procurement process.

The public, on the other hand, must cooperate and give their full support to the anti-corruption agencies.


Malaysia is likely to perform better in this year’s CPI with the Pakatan Harapan government launching the National Anti-Corruption Plan and pursuing a string of high-profile cases.

There are a few factors that could improve Malaysia’s CPI ranking.

CPI results correlate not only with attacks on press freedom and the reduction of space for civil society organisations.

In fact, what is at stake is the very essence of democracy and freedom.

There should be sincere political will, leadership by example, public prosecutor’s integrity and independence cannot be compromised; the anti-corruption agency must investigate without fear or favour, and get support from the public.

Despite the possibility of a positive outlook, it would all come to naught if the PH government cannot maintain its integrity.

Local and foreign experts working in Malaysia, who are taking part in the survey, will hear and read about corruption allegations and misuse of power and all this will be taken into account.

The writer holds a professorial
chair at HELP University’s Institute of Crime and Criminology, and was a former president of Transparency International Malaysia

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