January 31, 2024
DHAKA – Bangladesh has dropped two notches in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2023 of Transparency International and now ranks 10th from the bottom.
This is the lowest rank the country had since 2008. It shares the spot with the Central African Republic, Iran, Lebanon, and Zimbabwe.
Non-fulfilment of the government’s commitment to zero tolerance against corruption, intensified corruption in the public sector, and no effective action against money laundering were among the reasons that left Bangladesh facing a “very serious corruption problem”, observed the Transparency International Bangladesh, the local chapter of TI.
Among the eight South Asian countries, Bangladesh remains the second-last, only above Afghanistan, in score and rank with a measly score of 24 out of 100.
This is the lowest score of the country since 2012 and 19 points lower than the global average of 43.
The country had scored 25 in the 2022 index.
“The performance [of Bangladesh] is disappointing, embarrassing,” said Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of TIB, while unveiling the report at a press conference at the TIB office in the capital’s Dhanmondi yesterday.
The performance [of Bangladesh] is disappointing, embarrassing. Iftekharuzzaman
— executive director, TIB
Corruption is found more or less around the world but the way Bangladesh is being blamed is not fair at all.
— Obaidul Quader Road Transport and Bridges Minister
In 2001, when the TI included Bangladesh in the annual CPI, the country was ranked the lowest with a score of 0.4 out of 10 and held the same rank until 2005.
Bangladesh, however, improved until 2017 when it recorded its highest score, 28, and ranked 17th from the bottom.
But it stayed as 12th to 14th most corrupt country between 2018 and 2022.
The TI took into account data from eight international surveys on Bangladesh conducted between November 2020 and September 2023. No nationally generated data, including the TIB research, were taken into account.
The TI prepares the CPI based on the perception of corruption, mainly in the public sector, particularly bribery, the use of public office for private gain, diversion of public funds, nepotism in public sector appointments, red tape, and narrow vested interest groups indulging in policy capture.
At least 105 of 180 countries scored below the global average, which means 80 percent of the global population lives with a “very serious corruption problem”.
Compared to the CPI of 2022, global scores have worsened with 63 countries’ scores sliding, 62 retaining the same scores, and 55 improving.
Somalia was ranked as the most corrupt with a score of just 11 and Denmark remained the least corrupt country for the second year in a row with a score of 90.
BANGLADESH’S POOR SHOW
Citing the TI report, Iftekharuzzaman said Bangladesh scored fourth lowest among 31 Asia-Pacific countries, followed by Cambodia, 22, Afghanistan and Myanmar, 20, and North Korea, 17.
Bangladesh’s score is lower than the average of any region, including Sub-Saharan Africa which had the lowest average of 33, he said.
Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research and analysis division of the Economist Group, categorises each country into one of four regime types — full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid democracy, and authoritarian.
Bangladesh’s score is lower than the average of authoritarian countries, 29, Iftekharuzzaman said.
“The main message of the CPI 2023 is that corruption and injustice are interrelated and they feed each other,” Iftekharuzzaman said, adding that this creates a vicious circle.
“We can see such a vicious circle in our country too.”
WHY THE POOR SHOW
The TIB executive director said the government had promised zero tolerance for corruption but no strategic initiatives were seen during the data period for CPI 2023.
The widespread public sector corruption intensified further, especially in public contracting and project implementation, he said, adding that there was no effective action against money laundering.
He said the state institutions mandated to control corruption, including the Anti-Corruption Commission, increasingly came under political and bureaucratic influence, a key factor behind the protection and promotion of corruption.
Iftekharuzzaman said political and government positions were treated as a licence to abuse power.
He also mentioned policy capture for abuse by vested groups, sustained control and intimidation of the media and civil society as other reasons behind the poor show.
Iftekharuzzaman said the impunity enjoyed by the corrupt should be challenged effectively and they, especially the powerful, should be brought to justice.
The depoliticisation of state institutions is needed to ensure professional integrity and independence, especially at the ACC, the bureaucracy, law enforcement agencies, and the judicial service, he said.
The strategically crucial sectors of public interest need to be salvaged from the clutches of policy capture, conflict of interest, and partisan political interest, he added.
He said freedom of the media, civil society and the people has to be ensured for unrestricted disclosure, reporting, and commenting on corruption.
He said a paradigm shift is needed in the political culture so that political and public positions are not treated as licences to have personal gains.
Responding to a question, Iftekharuzzaman said there was no scope for the report to be “politically motivated” as the CPI report is globally accepted and beyond any debate.
The party in power, whichever it is, often terms TI’s report “politically motivated” but never shies away from using it to target their political opponents, he said.
He said the country witnessed socio-economic progress but the extent of the progress could have been more and people would have got more benefits had corruption been controlled.
Sultana Kamal, chairperson of the TIB’s board of trustees, said the government once again committed to zero tolerance for corruption after assuming power this month.
“If they remain honest about their commitment, we can hope for some improvements. But their previous work raises suspicion,” she said.
GOVT PAYS NO HEED: QUADER
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader yesterday said the government does not pay any heed to the CPI report, reports BSS.
He said the TIB is the BNP’s agent and it says whatever the BNP says.
“This type of agency [TI] has some political interest. These agencies protect the interests of some groups or some countries … ,” he told a press conference at the Awami League president’s Dhanmondi political office.
Quader, also the AL general secretary, said the TI announces such indexes to protect someone’s interest and the agency did it in the past too.
“Corruption is the way of life across the world now and it is not a matter of Bangladesh only.
“Corruption is found more or less around the world but the way Bangladesh is being blamed is not fair at all,” he added.