US is world's 19th least corrupt nation

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An outfit called Transparency International has published a list of 180 countries ranked in order of their perceived corruption. Its 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), a measure of domestic and public sector corruption is released today.

"At a time when massive stimulus packages, fast-track disbursements of public funds and attempts to secure peace are being implemented around the world, it is essential to identify where corruption blocks good governance and accountability, in order to break its corrosive cycle" said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International (TI).

The vast majority of the 180 countries included in the 2009 index score below five on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 10 (perceived to have low levels of corruption). The CPI measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption in a given country and is a composite index, drawing on 13 different expert and business surveys.

Highest scorers in the 2009 CPI are New Zealand at 9.4, Denmark at 9.3, Singapore and Sweden tied at 9.2 and Switzerland at 9.0. These scores reflect political stability, long-established conflict of interest regulations and solid, functioning public institutions. The USA comes in 19th, one place below the UK.

Fragile, unstable states linger at the bottom of the index. These are: Somalia, with a score of 1.1, Afghanistan at 1.3, Myanmar at 1.4 and Sudan tied with Iraq at 1.5. These results demonstrate that countries which are perceived as the most corrupt are also those plagued by long-standing conflicts, which have torn apart their governance infrastructure.

According to TI, when essential institutions are weak or non-existent, corruption spirals out of control and the plundering of public resources feeds insecurity and impunity. Corruption also makes normal a seeping loss of trust in the very institutions and nascent governments charged with ensuring survival and stability.

"Stemming corruption requires strong oversight by parliaments, a well performing judiciary, independent and properly resourced audit and anti-corruption agencies, vigorous law enforcement, transparency in public budgets, revenue and aid flows, as well as space for independent media and a vibrant civil society," said Labelle. "The international community must find efficient ways to help war-torn countries to develop and sustain their own institutions."

Bribery, cartels and other corrupt practices undermine competition and contribute to massive loss of resources for development in all countries, especially the poorest ones. Between 1990 and 2005, more than 283 private international cartels were exposed that cost consumers around the world an estimated US $300 billion in overcharges, as documented in a recent TI report.

The report adds that, as the G20 nations tackle financial sector and economic reforms, it is critical to address corruption as a substantial threat to a sustainable economic future. 

Top Ten Least Corrupt Countries, 2009
1.    New Zealand
2.    Denmark
3.    Singapore
4.    Sweden
5.    Switzerland
6.    Finland
7.    Netherlands
8.    Australia
9.    Canada
10.    Iceland 

The full report can be found on TI's site here.