Bangladesh has moved three notches up but scored the same on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which indicates the government needs to strengthen measures to combat graft.
The CPI 2019 also shows that the country’s position among the South Asian nations remained the same compared to the previous year: second lowest and ahead of war-torn Afghanistan.
Besides, Bangladesh ranks fourth lowest among 31 Asia-Pacific countries named on the index, just ahead of Cambodia, Afghanistan and North Korea.
The TI’s flagship report described Bangladesh’s performance as “mixed”, saying the rise in ranking was “insignificant” and it left “no scope for complaisance.”
The Berlin-based global graft watchdog listed a host of reasons as “possible factors” behind the country’s failure to score more than 26 out of 100. The global average is 43.
The country had the same score on CPI 2018.
The factors included high-profile corruption being rarely addressed; weakening institutions of accountability; impunity; deficit of effectiveness of Anti-Corruption Commission, especially in case of “big fish”; shrinking media and civil society space; lack of tolerance of dissent; deficit in trust about end-result of high-profile anti-corruption drive; deficit in political integrity and linkage of politics with big money and corruption; political and policy decisions reflecting powerful vested groups with little reflection of public interest; and deficit in electoral integrity and transparency of political or electoral finance.
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) disclosed the findings of the global survey report at its Dhanmondi office in the capital yesterday.
“We would have been a bit more satisfied if progress had been made both in terms of ranking and score. Then we could say there was improvement,” TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said while sharing the findings with the media.
“But we are not saying that there was no improvement. What happened shows a mixed picture,” he said.
Responding to a query, Iftekharuzzaman said it could be the case that some countries did even worse than Bangladesh and slipped to lower positions, paving the way for Bangladesh to go up on the index.
Bangladesh ranks 146th among 180 countries surveyed. The previous year, it was at the 149th position among 180 countries.
On the latest index, Angola, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, Mozambique and Nigeria also scored 26, same as Bangladesh did.
At the press conference, Iftekharuzzaman lauded Bangladesh’s progress in different socio-economic indicators in recent years and said such progress could have been even better if “we had been able to ensure good governance and fight corruption more effectively.”
He also said, ”Because of graft, opportunity cost is much higher [in Bangladesh].”
Voicing concern over the reported involvement of some Anti-Corruption Commission officials in graft, Iftekharuzzaman said what happened in such cases was that departmental actions were taken against the officials in question, but their exemplary punishment was not ensured.
If the commission wants to gain people’s trust, it must ensure integrity within it, he said.
Iftekharuzzaman also said Bangladesh’s institutional and legal capacity to combat graft was very high, but the problem was that the capacity was not being properly utilised.
“Sadly, we can see a connection between graft and a section of those who are entitled to and bestowed with the power to utilise the capacity,” he said, adding that graft was increasing because of that section of people.
Referring to the report, the TIB executive director said the countries where integrity in political and electoral practices is high have fared better on the index.
On the other hand, the countries that failed to ensure participatory and inclusive elections, among other factors, ranked low, he said.
In the report, the TI also gave several recommendations for improving Bangladesh’s score on the index.
One of the recommendations is ensuring the effective implementation of the prime minister’s declaration of “zero tolerance” to corruption.
The report also recommended that impunity is effectively challenged and corrupt people, irrespective of status or identity, are brought to justice.
The TI called upon the authorities concerned to ensure robust access to information as well as faster, wider and deeper digitisation.
Bangladesh was included in the CPI in 2001. It was at the very bottom during the 2001-2005 period.
Among the South Asian countries, Bhutan holds the top position on the CPI 2019. It scored 68 and ranked 25th. Scoring 41, India was at the 80th position.
These two countries are followed by Sri Lanka (score 38; 93rd position), Nepal (score 34; 113th position), Pakistan (score 32; 120th position), Maldives (score 29; 130th position), Bangladesh and Afghanistan (score 16; 173rd position).
Globally, Denmark and New Zealand are the least corrupt countries, with both scoring 87. The other top least corrupt countries include Finland, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Netherlands, Germany and Luxemburg, according to the report.
No country has scored 100 out of 100.
Out of the 180 countries surveyed, 131 countries scored below 50 while 108 or 60 percent countries scored less than the global average of 43.
Score declined for 68 countries, increased for 60 countries and remained unchanged for 52 countries.
Somalia is the most corrupt country with the lowest score of 9, according to the index.
The TI’s global survey has accumulated data from 13 international surveys and for the period of December, 2017 to October, 2019.
For Bangladesh, data has been collected from eight international surveys.
Those are: World Economic Forum- Executive Opinion Survey; Economist Intelligence Unit- Country Risk Assessment; World Justice Project-Rule of Law Index; Political Risk Service (PRS) International Country Risk Guide; Bertelsmann Foundation Transformation Index; Information Handling Services (HIS) Global Insight Country Risk Ratings; World Bank- Country Policy and Institutional Assessment; and Varieties of Democracy Project.
The CPI was introduced in 1995.