Burma Still Among World’s Most Corrupt Countries, Index Finds

By Tin Htet Paing 28 January 2016

RANGOON — Burma remains among the world’s most corrupt countries, according to a new index by Berlin-based graft monitor Transparency International, though it has shown marginal improvement over the past year.

Perceived corruption levels were assessed for 168 countries on a scale of zero to 100, with higher scores representing cleaner governance. Burma’s global rank—147 out of 168—was a marked improvement over last year’s 156, though the country scored only one point better than it did in the 2014 assessment.

Burma earned a score of 21 points, a slight improvement over last year’s 22. With some minor fluctuations, Burma’s score has improved by 15 points since 2012, indicating an initial upward trend that has slowed over the past two years.

Burma’s perceived deceleration on the corruption front reflected concerns expressed by a number of lawmakers that the current government has done little to tackle graft.

President Thein Sein’s Anti-Corruption Commission was primarily formed of retired military officers directly appointed by the head of state, himself a former general. The commission was formed in April 2014 following the promulgation of Burma’s Anti-Graft Law.

Asked last year what measures had thus far been taken to address corruption, chairman Mya Win admitted that the commission had “no plans” to audit government officials.

A new Parliament dominated by the National League for Democracy (NLD) will convene next month after its landslide win in the Nov. 8 general election. The party has vowed to establish a “corruption-free society,” though analysts predict that the new government will face difficulties reforming Burma’s bureaucracy, which has long been regulated by corrupt officials.

Those predictions are bolstered by Transparency International’s finding that “[n]ot one single country, anywhere in the world, is corruption-free.”

Countries that ranked the lowest were those with conflict, poor governance, weak public institutions such as security forces and the judiciary, and a lack of press freedom. Those at the top shared the characteristics of a relatively free press, access to budget data and independent judiciaries.

Denmark topped Transparency’s list as the cleanest country, while North Korea and Somalia shared the lowest rank. More than two-thirds of countries were labeled as “highly corrupt.”

Thailand and India were found to be among the world’s 80 most corrupt countries, while Singapore was the only Asian nation to make the top 10.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Burma’s global rank remained the same as the previous year.