Ireland dropped by one place in the global corruption rankings this year, while Denmark retained its reputation as the least corrupt.
Seven of the top 10 countries were in the EU, while Ireland was placed joint 18th, with 75 out of 100 points. This was a point more than in 2014, but a better performance by the US pushed Ireland down a place.
“Public-sector corruption is not simply about taxpayer money going missing. Broken institutions and corrupt officials fuel inequality and exploitation, keeping wealth in the hands of an elite few and trapping many more in poverty,” said Transparency International (TI), which conducted the study.
Four EU countries scored under 50 points which, according to TI, means their public-sector services have a serious corruption problem. They are Bulgaria, Italy, Romania, along with Greece, though it has improved its rating this year.
Hungary, Slovakia, and Croatia, at 51 points, escape the “serious corruption” label by a whisker.
Spain is fingered as one of the countries where public corruption has increased most, together with Hungary, Turkey, Australia, and Brazil.
Among the 196 countries surveyed, Denmark and Finland were tops, scoring 91 and 90 points, respectively, while the lowest, with a rating of eight, were North Korea and Somalia.
Globally, two thirds of countries had a serious corruption problem, including the Brics — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — and half the G20 nations. In all, 6bn people out of the global population of 7.4bn live in countries deemed to be very corrupt.
While Europe is, on average, the least corrupt region, TI said the general picture is one of stagnation, with countries willing to pass laws, but not enforce them.
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