Small comfort in new graft rank

Small comfort in new graft rank

Thailand's place in world little improved

Transparency International now ranks Thailand as No.96 in the world, better than No.101 but still red, for the world's most corrupt.
Transparency International now ranks Thailand as No.96 in the world, better than No.101 but still red, for the world's most corrupt.

Thailand is doing a little better in the fight against graft, falling to 96th place in the latest Corruption Perception Index from 101st place a year ago.

The country scored 37 in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2017 released last night by independent watchdog Transparency International (TI), compared to 35 in 2016.

New Zealand tops the ranking with a score of 89, followed by Denmark which gets 88 and Finland with 85, the same as Norway and Switzerland. Singapore ranks 6th globally and top in Asia with a score of 84, the same score as Sweden.

Meanwhile, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the UK get the same score of 82 while Germany follows with 81. Syria, South Sudan and Somalia rank lowest with scores of 14, 12 and 9 respectively.

Tipatrai Saelawong, a Thailand Development Research Institute researcher who studies corruption, said he looks more at the score than the ranking.

"The acceptable score is 40, so I am not that happy. The improved ranking for Thailand might be a result of the methodology that asks business people to evaluate the matter. When the politics is stable, business people might see that as a plus. However, there might still be bribery which is paid for one time and that's it, instead of several times in the past," the researcher said.

He said the way to reach a score of 40 is to have an election and improve democracy and human rights.

He said another concern is the graft scrutiny system, especially by independent organisations which was not as active as under elected governments of the past. However, he believes the media and the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT) are still doing well.

National Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit said the CPI looked into many aspects including politics, the economy, trade and investment, justice system, law enforcement and human rights.

He believed Thailand's score for the rule of law and expectations for democracy were the only aspects in which Thailand's score dropped but he believed the country did better in the other aspects.

He was speaking at a NACC seminar Wednesday morning, prior to the release of the CPI result. "What's happening has no main actor. If the CPI improves we will argue that every sector is involved, but if it drops, the NACC must be responsible as the law says the NACC is the main agency responsible [for anti-corruption work]," he said.

He said that while the country is now under a military regime, the benefit is that there is added security but some people believe their rights have been undermined. However, the government is aware of their concerns, and has promised a return to democracy. ACT secretary-general Mana Nimitmongkol said he was glad to see an improvement, even if it was only a little.

"From the score, we still fail as we get below 50 points, partly because of existing unfairness in the bureaucracy. We can see the case of the women who set upon the pickup truck blocking their driveway as an example. Such unfairness will destroy the country's peace and prosperity as well as the economy," he said, adding that under the military regime, examination the work of government officials is difficult.

"It will take time. However, we cannot give up. We must not only depend on ministers, politicians, and business people, but everyone must join hands and seeing even a small improvement in Thailand's corruption situation is a delight," he said.

According to Transparency International, the index released today shows that despite attempts to combat corruption around the world, the majority of countries are moving too slowly in their efforts. The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people, uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

This year, the index found that more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of 43. Over the past six years, several countries significantly improved their CPI score, including Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal and the United Kingdom, while several countries declined, including Syria, Yemen and Australia. The best performing region is Western Europe with an average score of 66. The worst were Sub-Saharan Africa (average score 32) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score 34).

Transparency International's ranking comes a week after the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce released its latest corruption situation index (CSI) survey which suggested graft is still at worrying levels. The survey of 2,400 respondents in December found "the value of corruption" involving various bribes and under-the-table payments paid to state officials and politicians stands at 25-30% of the state investment budget, totalling 676.4 billion baht. This is equivalent to 169 billion-203 billion baht, accounting for 1.69-2.03% of GDP or 9.95-11.94% of state spending of 1.7 trillion baht.

In response, the ACT's Mr Mana called for drastic changes. "The CSI survey has been undertaken since 2010 and we can see that the corruption index for Thailand improved drastically in 2014 after the rise of the National Council for Peace and Order," he said. "Since then it has deteriorated again, even though the situation is still better now than it was in 2014," he told the Bangkok Post last week.

Meanwhile, the TI report said a journalist is killed in a highly corrupt country every week. The index found a close relationship between corruption levels, protection of journalistic freedoms and engagement of civil society. It found that almost all journalists killed since 2012 were killed in corrupt countries. "No activist or reporter should have to fear for their lives when speaking out against corruption," said Patricia Moreira, TI's managing director.

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