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Corruption, justice and accountability

Pakistan’s ranking on the global Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), announced this week by the Berlin-based corruption watchdog, Transparency International, shows that during 2023 the country’s ranking was 133 while the CPI score was 29 out of 100 as against ranking of 140 with the CPI score was 27 in 2022, thereby notching an improvement of 7 spots in ranking and 2 spots in the CPI score.

The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public-sector corruption according to experts and business people. It relies on 13 independent data sources and uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

Under this benchmark, Pakistan, with a CPI of 29 marks out of 100, as against the global average of 45, is well below the passing marks and the country remains in the red zone of the index. In contrast, CPI score for our eastern neighbor, India, dropped from 40 in 2022 to 39 out of 100 in 2023. Sixty-eight per cent of the countries across Asia and the Pacific have a CPI score below 50.

Transparency International Chair, Francois Valerian, made a significant statement, saying, among other things, that “Corruption will continue to thrive until justice systems can punish wrongdoing and keep governments in check. When justice is bought or politically interfered with, it is the people who suffer. Leaders should fully invest in and guarantee the independence of institutions that uphold the law and tackle corruption. It is time to end impunity for corruption.”

Denmark with a CPI score of 90 tops the index for the sixth consecutive year, with Finland and New Zealand following closely with scores of 87 and 85, respectively. Due to the well-functioning justice systems, these countries are also among the top scorers in the Rule of Law Index.

Somalia (11), Venezuela (13), Syria (13), South Sudan (13) and Yemen (16) take the bottom spots in the index. They are all affected by protracted crises, mostly armed conflicts and very low in Rule of Law Index.

The relationship between corruption, accountability, and justice is quite intricate. Countries with the lowest scores in these indices of accountability and justice are also score very low on the CPI, highlighting a clear nexus between access to justice and corruption, the report stressed to its credit.

The report highlights that both authoritarian regimes and democratic leaders undermining justice contributed to increasing impunity for graft and, in some cases, even encouraged it by removing consequences for those involved in corrupt practices.

The lack of delivery on anti-corruption agendas and weak justice systems undermine anti-corruption efforts, notably, in Asia Pacific. Strong judicial oversight and well-resourced law enforcement institutions are a key to keeping corruption in check.

In turn, preventing the abuse of political power, bribery and other forms of corruption from influencing justice systems is also an essential element for ensuring their effectiveness.

Conversely, a commitment to accountability and justice fosters a transparent and fair society. When those in power are held accountable for their actions, trust in institutions is reinforced, and citizens can have confidence in the integrity of their government. This trust is crucial for economic development, social cohesion, and the overall functioning of a society.

Countries with a phenomenal economic growth can go around and sideline the ranking of corruption in their country and present an image of all is good to the world and on the domestic front win over the elite and middle-income segments of society through economic growth. India with a CPI of 39 against the average of 50 is in the light red zone of corruption.

With a phenomenal growth of around 7 percent over the last many years and with rapid development of its infrastructure and global outreach, the world looks upon India with the clouded lens of the 5th largest economy of the world and the tremendous business opportunities it offers to them rather than being concerned with its corruption ranking or with millions of hungry mouths languishing under immense poverty in India – being the prime victims of corruption.

On the other hand, countries with a lethal combination of a messed-up economy and high corruption, the corruption factor pops out and the world looks upon them with this lens. Such countries are of no interest to global players in business and world politics

There are some countries with thriving economies, notably in the West, which are among top scorers of CPI. They would not be there if the parameters of Transparency International for CPI are revised to be   balanced and include money laundering as a source of corruption.

These countries provide safe havens to ill-gotten wealth and are complicit in money laundering from countries with low scores.

The Panama papers and Wikileaks exposed some of them. While some Western countries have taken steps to crack down on money laundering, others continue to be seen as safe havens for dirty money.

Farhat Ali, "Corruption, justice and accountability," Business recorder. 2024-02-03.
Keywords: Economics , Global average , Law Enforcement , Money laundering , Economic growth , Economic development , Law Index , Somalia , Venezuela , Syria , South Sudan , Yemen , CPI

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