In the latest Global Bribery Risk Index, Bangladesh has been identified as the “country with the highest risk” when it comes to bribery in South Asia. The 2019 “Trace Bribery Risk Matrix” is a globally recognised anti-bribery business association and it states that we have fared poorly in taking active measures to discourage bribery and enforce anti-bribery deterrence activities.
This is reflected in the country being ranked 178th out of 200 countries and territories covered by the report. Indeed, we have consistently been marked as a “high risk” country on the index since 2014. That went down further in 2016 when Bangladesh was categorised as a “very high risk” country. We scored 86 in business interactions with the government, which means, there is a high regulatory burden and expectation of bribes. Then there is the question of level of media freedom and civil society engagement, where we scored 64.
High instances of bribery have multifarious impacts on the economy. Domestically, it raises the cost of doing business for enterprises and acts as a hindrance for forming new small businesses. Internationally, it tarnishes the image of the country and acts to stop reputable foreign companies, with strong corporate governance practices, from investing in Bangladesh. At a time when we are trying to woo serious foreign direct investment, being perceived as a “high risk country” defeats the gains and achievements resulting from our development efforts.
Non-state actors, particularly a vibrant media can act as the eyes-and-ears of policymakers when it comes to combatting the very real threat of corruption. It is high time to reverse the damage being done to the country’s image by taking proactive measures through a constant anti-corruption crackdown.