The 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index depicts a decade of stagnant corruption levels in the Asia Pacific.

CIO Review Europe | Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International shows that corruption levels remain at a standstill worldwide.

FREMONT, CA:The Asia Pacific has made significant progress in eliminating bribery for basic services and petty corruption, but grand corruption and institutional and regulatory shortcomings continue to keep the region at the backfoot. China and India, two of the region's and the world's most populous countries, score low because governments suppress dissent and curtail human rights. Even countries with high scores, such as Australia, turn a blid eye towards international corruption through loose banking restrictions. From Singapore to Bangladesh and Cambodia, the COVID-19 epidemic has exacerbated existing difficulties in 2021, as governments have used the pandemic to tighten control and diminish accountability.

On a scale of zero to one hundred, the CPI assesses 180 nations and territories based on their perceived levels of public sector corruption. For the third year in a row, the Asia Pacific average remains at 45, with more than 70 percent of countries ranking below 50.

New Zealand is the leading nation, with Singapore (85) and Hong Kong (76) completing out the top three in the Asia Pacific. The lowest in the region are North Korea, Afghanistan, and Cambodia. This year, Australia, Mongolia, the Philippines and Thailand have all reached new lows.

24 countries in the area have either deteriorated or made no meaningful progress in the recent decade. Australia, Mongolia and the Philippines have all had considerable declines in the CPI since 2012. Over that time, seven countries in the area have progressed significantly: South Korea, China, Timor-Leste, Vietnam, Nepal, Myanmar and Afghanistan.

Only a few countries have made significant progress in curbing corruption, as severe limits on civil freedoms, such as freedom of association and communication, harm human rights and allow corruption to thrive. Philippines witnessed a decline in the score as the 2016 elections pushed down on freedoms of organizations and expressions. It also has an unusually high percentage of human rights defenders being murdered, with 20 assassinated in 2020. Since 2017, South Korea has progressively improved, garnering 6 points. A healthy cross-section of viewpoints and regular power rotations characterise democracy. Human rights are substantially respected under this type of governance, and civil society thrives.

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