Burma among world's 'most corrupt' states

Nov 18, 2009 (DVB), Burma has been ranked third from bottom in an international report examining corruption in 180 countries around the world, with only the war-ravaged Somalia and Afghanistan ranking lower.

While Burma was awarded 1.4 points on Transparency International's (TI) annual Corruption Perceptions Index, both Iraq and Sudan are deemed 'less corrupt' with a score of 1.5.

The index measures 180 countries by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys. The Berlin-based group has been releasing the index since 1995.

"Countries at the bottom of the index cannot be shut out of development efforts," said a TI press release accompanying the report. "What the index points to is the need to strengthen their institutions."

Dr Kanokkan, from TI's Thailand office, warned however that with Burma's military government notoriously hostile to foreign assistance, "people don't know what's going on in the country".

Out of Burma's regional neighbours, Singapore was the highest scorer, whilst Bangladesh made an apparent upturn in the ranking. Malaysia, a popular destination for Burmese migrants, however made a significant decline compared with last year.

Singapore's high score is ironic given the accusations that proceeds from much of Burma's mineral wealth siphoned out of the country by the military junta are held in Singaporean banks. The transnational element of corruption is therefore not factored into the index.

"We cannot deny that this is a problem," said Kanokkan. "Many first world countries invest in Burma [and] this is something we need to point our finger at."

"That's why this year we ask other countries, particularly in the first world who have many safe havens that people from corrupt countries are able to use, to show sincerity to fight corruption. The first world can help in this way."

The chairperson of TI, Huguette Labelle, acknowledged the multifaceted approach needed to effectively tackle the problem.

"Stemming corruption requires strong oversight by parliaments, a well performing judiciary, independent and properly resourced audit and anti-corruption agencies, vigorous law enforcement, transparency in public budgets, revenue and aid flows, as well as space for independent media and a vibrant civil society".

Burma would appear to be struggling in many of those departments, having last month been ranked 171 out of 175 in the Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) annual Press Freedom Index.

Legal observers have also warned of a lack of an independent judiciary, particularly during the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this year, while advocacy group EarthRights International in September accused the junta of siphoning $US5 billion of unaudited oil and gas revenue to Singapore.

Reporting by Joseph Allchin

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