New Delhi (Mizzima) – Military ruled Burma has been ranked third among the most corrupt countries in the world, a Berlin-based global civil society organization, Transparency International (TI), said in a new report.
TI’s 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), released on Tuesday, reveals that an unstable and fragile Burma, which has been scarred by war and ongoing conflicts, is third among the worst, with a score of 1.4 at the bottom of the index.
Somali with 1.1, and Afghanistan with 1.3 scores, are the only two other countries, below Burma. The CPI’s index score used a 0 to 10 grading system with 0 to 5 indicating the high levels of corruption and 5 to 10 indicating low levels of corruption.
“These results demonstrate that countries which are perceived as the most corrupt are also those plagued by long-standing conflicts, which have torn apart their governance infrastructure,” TI said in its report.
Burma, which has been ruled by military dictators since 1962, has been mired in civil war. With the junta’s increasing suppression, most ethnic groups in remote areas of the country have resorted to armed struggle, demanding greater recognition and a federal union.
TI said corruption in countries like Burma, which has been ruled by military regimes for decades, went out of control with essential institutions in the country becoming weak or non-existent.
“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,” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of the TI.
Burma was once known as the rice-bowl of Southeast Asia, but its economy plummeted and became one among the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world.
Mark Farmaner, Director of London-based Burma Campaign UK (BCUK), said corruption is one of the policies of the Burmese military junta, which came to power in 1988 after cracking down on student-led protests, as a means to sustain its rule in the country.
“Corruption in Burma begins at the top - from Burmese General Than Shwe and his family. They are exploiting and stealing the wealth of the country,” Farmaner said.
“It is going down to civil servants, whose salaries are extremely low, and that encourages corruption in the lower level as well,” he added.
The junta has blamed Western sanctions for its economic deterioration, Farmaner said, “The Burmese regime and their cronies are the main persons who have dragged the country’s economy down.”
TI’s report said countries like Burma, which are at the bottom of the index, cannot be shut out from development efforts but need to have their institutions strengthened.
“The international community must find efficient ways to help war-torn countries to develop and sustain their own institutions,” Labelle said.
While TI’s report said countries that have low level corruption including New Zealand, which is at the top of the Index with a 9.4 score, followed by Denmark, Singapore and Sweden, all reflect that there is more political stability, long-established conflicts of interest regulations and solidly functioning public institutions.