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Corruption Risk in ASEAN Countries

Press Releases

19th September 2016 – Early this year, Transparency International (TI) released its World Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2015 results. The survey of the CPI of 168 nations for 2015 revealed Malaysia’s score declined from 52/100 to 50/100, and the country’s ranking has dropped significantly from 50th to 54th. Malaysia’s CPI ranking would have slid even further to 59 as nations such as Barbados, Panama, Dominican Republic, Bahamas, St Vincent and Puerto Rico were not covered last year.

A country’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). A country’s rank indicates its position relative to the other countries in the index, the smaller the number of the rank the less corrupt a country is perceived to be.

However, Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) notes the Government’s key performance indicator on this sector is to be at the 30th spot by 2020. Given the declining performance in this respect, for the government to achieve this target there needs to be very serious and full commitment in combating corruption or this target will never be a reality.

Part of the reason is that Malaysia have been plagued by series of high profile political scandals such 1Malaysia Development Berhad, the RM2.6bil donation and political instability were among reasons why Malaysia slipped four points down the global corruption perception index (CPI).The delay in solving these issues may pull our ranking further down in the survey of CPI in the coming years

In contrast, citizens of Thailand and Indonesia seem much more enthusiastic in reporting and fighting corruption, leading to their rise in CPI rankings even though they are still much far below Malaysia. Thailand improved 9 spots its standing to 76th from 85th with a score of 38/100 due to great awareness of the fight against corruption, close scrutiny by independent public organizations, and strict law enforcement. In ASEAN, Thailand came third, after Singapore and Malaysia.

However, Indonesia lurched upwards 19 spots to 88th from 107th with a score of 36/100. Indonesia’s drastic rise was due to the strength and independence of its Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK), which has made progress in tackling high profile cases and received an overwhelming support from the public.

The Philippines, however, fell 10 places to 95th with a score of 35/100 and Singapore has been ranked 8th slipped one place from 7th in 2014 with a score of 85/100. But in actual fact, Singapore, Denmark and New Zealand tie for 1st place with scores of 93/100 in the 2010 CPI result.

Associate Professor Tan Khee Giap, co-director of the Asia Competitiveness Institute at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, once said that the nature of corruption in Singapore has changed from money to sexual favours. He said: “They are all equally bad, but cash corruption is more serious in terms of implications for the economy”.

Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos meanwhile continued to languish in the lower reaches of the ranking at 112th (31/100), 150th (25/100) 147th (22/100) and 139th (21/100) respectively, pointing to little or no change in the region.

Within Asia Pacific, the Singapore ranked only after New Zealand, the fourth highest in the world. The next highest scores in the Asia Pacific region were given to Australia (79), Hong Kong (75) and Japan (75).   North Korea is officially perceived to be Asia’s most corrupt nation at 167th place.

The CPI makes use of surveys done by business people from around the world, including expert,s living and risk analysts and the general working public in the countries evaluated. The CPI is based on at least 3 independent surveys of the perceptions in each country.

Studies show that there is a correlation between CPI and economic growth.  CPI can influence the rate of investment of a country as investors increasingly recognize the evils of corruption. Indeed the CPI is a helpful tool to measure corruption and tell us whether it continues to plague the country. How we respond to a poor CPI rating also indicates whether a government is sincere or serious about dealing with this social and political disease.

Among the nations that have top rankings, Denmark (91/100) is first, second Finland (90/100), third Sweden (89/100), fourth New Zealand (88/100) and Netherlands shares fifth place with Norway (87/100).

The top 5 least corrupt countries in the world share features of good governance and a high standard of integrity in public service, openness in government contracts ,effective legal systems, law on access to information, independence of anti-graft agencies. Denmark has created a public register including beneficial ownership information for all companies.
Can all these be achieved by Malaysia by 2020?  The signs are not good at the moment and will remain that way unless the current government and the political leaders that wield power wake up to deal with the grand and widespread corruption issues facing our country today. But, failure to address our deep-seated corruption problem gives rise to a sense of pessimism.


Dato’ Akhbar Satar
Transparency International Malaysia
19 September 2016