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Corruption in nearly half the world’s nations is not getting much better and, indeed, in many countries is intensifying–affecting virtually every aspect of life among peoples on every continent. While a year ago, some 72 out of 158 nations surveyed by the international watchdog group Transparency International were classified as “corrupt,” now 74 of 163 countries fall into the same category. A few, most notably India, managed to bootstrap themselves (just barely) out of the truly corrupt group, while others, particularly Iran, dug themselves more firmly into that camp.
The police continue to be a central factor in corruption in Haiti, though there is corruption in virtually every governmental body. Since the police are also the officials closest to every individual on a daily basis, it is their corruption that changes the nature of daily life in Haiti, permeating all society and the way business is done.
Corruption is perceived as widespread in this vicious dictatorship run with an iron hand by a strong-willed clique of military leaders, who persist in repression of civil society at every level. Illicit facilitation payments and informal fees are required to access even the most basic government services.
Huge quantities of funds– especially American military and reconstruction aid funds–swirling through this nation, where many civil structures have largely broken down, is a recipe for corruption at all levels. Beyond kidnappings and ransom payments, TI officials say their survey was conducted in the first half of 2006 when funds being handled by the Coalition Provisional Authority were largely exhausted and no longer being disbursed. So the Iraqi government, where corruption is said to be rampant, was in charge of its own funds. International businessmen from a range of countries converging on Baghdad found finance, export credits, contracts and a host of more mundane functions of government all subject to illicit payments.
Guinea has been in a political crisis state for at least three years. Though the current, corrupt president has been in power for 20 years, strong pressure has been building from the public for a change of regime. A public strike that lasted one month finally ended a month ago. There was outright civil strife, obliging the president to appoint a new prime minister. The most controversial, and corrupt, deals surround the mining sector, particularly aluminum. Among foreign businessmen, the general view, according to the TI survey, was that to do business in Guinea you needed “to pay off the guy at the top.”
The key event was the switch from a Canadian company that dominated oil drilling in Sudan, the No. 3 oil producer in Africa, to a Chinese company that took over the contract after the Canadians found corruption and an outrageous human rights record was too rife to be able to continue functioning. China is now responsible for 90% of all oil production in Sudan, which also controls oil flow down a large pipeline through southern Sudan to the sea. Chinese officials have declined any comment on the human rights situation, and TI officials say they are “not too worried about having to pay off the Khartoum government.”
Copper in Katanga, and in the rest of the country, gold, uranium and especially coltan, a rare mineral that’s in every cell phone chip, still drive the corruption that remains rampant in this African nation. A presidential election did little to stop the corruption or the resulting violence that erupted again last month in downtown Kinshasha, the nation’s capital. The president is the principal recipient of routine payments by the mining companies who apparently are prepared to play the very lucrative payoff game that remains as endemic now as it was back during the regime of one of Africa’s historically most corrupt leaders, Mobutu Sese-Seko.
Chad has dropped from No. 1 to No. 7 this year as international aid agencies, particularly the World Bank, have sought to come to grips with one of the world’s most piggish uses of philanthropic funds. Proceeds of a Chad- Cameroon oil pipeline, funded in part by the World Bank and operated by an Exxon Mobil-led consortium, were supposed to have been used to help feed the desperately poor people of both nations. Instead, at least $30 million was diverted to buy arms to keep the government of President Idriss Deby in power. The World Bank, whose president, Paul Wolfowitz, was deeply embarrassed by the fiasco, halted funding more than a year ago, but reached an accord with Chad last July. According to TI officials, the jury’s still out on how effectively it will be implemented.
There continues to be a general lack of engagement between the government and civil society as repression, corruption throughout government ranks and especially in the judiciary and political circles persists, often spilling over into the private sector. In March, the new military-backed government jailed at least 40 prominent business and government leaders from two of the leading political parties in what was described as an ongoing probe of corruption, but TI officials are little impressed. Still, after five straight years at the top of the list, Bangladesh has signed the United Nations convention against corruption and has now dropped to No. 8.
The most corrupt of the five former Soviet Republics on our list, Uzbekistan is sinking ever deeper into corruption and unrest–in constant turmoil and strife under what the U.S. State Department describes as the authoritarian rule of President Islam Karimov, a communist apparatchik holdover of the old regime, which, while violently suppressing opposition, encourages corruption that permeates society, including the executive branch. Bribery will win you everything from admission to leading educational institutions to a favorable outcome of traffic cases and civil lawsuits.
One of the world’s smallest oil powers, it is also among the most corrupt. Still, possibly under pressure from the major oil companies that operate there, particularly Exxon Mobil, things have improved a trifle, though the corrupt President Teodoro Obiang Nguema remains in power. Now, though, it’s becoming possible to operate a business on a reasonable basis, provided one accepts that 30% of all funds, including oil profits go straight into the pocket of Nguema. Still, the system of corruption now is more rational and orderly than the previous system that amounted to near-total anarchy.