It's A Dirty World

Don Cheadle makes the list for his involvement in raising awareness about the Darfur atrocities. Cheadle visited the area and testified before Congress. He also narrated the documentary "Darfur Now."
AP Photo
Finland is the least corrupt country in the world and Bangladesh is the most corrupt, according to a corruption index issued Wednesday.

The annual survey of 91 countries by Berlin-based Transparency International awarded Finland 9.9 points out of a possible 10. Bangladesh scored 0.4.

Others near Bangladesh at the low end of the scale were Nigeria with one point and Uganda and Indonesia, each at 1.9. Following Finland were Denmark at 9.5 and New Zealand with 9.4.

The non-profit's annual Corruption Perceptions Index said perceived corruption among public officials and politicians has reached crisis proportions.

Almost two-thirds of the states on the index scored less than five out of 10, showing investors, risk analysts and the public believe that corruption in public office is widespread.

"Corruption levels are perceived to be as high as ever in both the developed and developing worlds," said Transparency's chairman, Peter Eigen. "There is a worldwide corruption crisis."

While some of the world's richest nations scored nine or higher, the poorest countries dominated the lower end.

Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Cameroon, Kenya, Indonesia, Uganda, Nigeria and Bangladesh all scored two or less.

"The new CPI illustrates once more the vicious circle of poverty and corruption, where parents have to bribe underpaid teachers to secure an education for their children and under-resourced health services provide a breeding ground for corruption," Eigen told a news conference in Paris.

With many of the poorest countries battling the HIV virus, Eigen said it was imperative that corrupt governments did not steal from their own people if lives were to be saved.

The 2001 list is a composite index drawn up on the basis of 14 different polls and surveys from seven independent institutions.

Eigen pointed out that Bangladesh's low rating was based on just three polls, and therefore subject to sharp variations. And he said Nigeria's score did not necessarily reflect its new government's efforts to stamp out corruption.

Obiagelo Ezekwesili, a special assistant to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, said the government was working to overcome a public culture of distrust and deep infrastructure decay, the legacy of 15 years of military dictatorship.

"However, the obvious shift in the corruption climate in our country symbolizes that critical first step…," she said.

Eigen said that industrialized countries also had a long way to go, noting a campaign contributions scandal in Germany and the sentencing of former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas for taking illegal gifts from the Elf Aquitaine oil giant. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton's pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich was also a low-point, the report said.

Clean Regimes
The 20 least corrupt countries, as ranked by Transparency International. (Shared rankings indicate a tie):

1. Finland
2. Denmark
3. New Zealand
4. Iceland & Singapore
6. Sweden
7. Canada
8. Netherlands
9. Luxembourg
10. Norway
11. Australia
12. Switzerland
13. United Kingdom
14. Hong Kong
15. Austria
16. Israel & USA
18. Chile & Ireland
20. Germany

"Many developed nations are in no position to preach to poorer countries on integrity in government," he said.

In the United States, lack of effective limits on political donations has given corporations and extremely wealth individuals undue influence in government affairs, said Laurence Cockcroft, chairman of Transparency International's British branch.

Clinton's pardon of Rich highlighted "a gaping deficit of accountability" in the United States, the group said in a statement.

Cockcroft added that the scrapping of the Kyoto Protocol by President Bush reinforced international perceptions that U.S. leaders too often sacrifice better judgment to finance increasingly costly election campaigns.

The United States ranked 16th, Germany was 20th and France 23rd.

Russia ranked 79th and Ukraine was 83rd, highlighting that former Soviet countries must do more to establish a proper legal system and make their governments more transparent, the group said.

Berlin-based Transparency International is a non-governmental organization dedicated to increasing government accountability and battling corruption.

Its chief source of funding are Western governments and philanthropic foundations. Corporate donors include Shell Oil, General Electric Co. and BHP Group.

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