updated 10/7/2003 7:38:12 AM ET 2003-10-07T11:38:12

Many rich countries have unacceptably high levels of corruption, but the situation is even worse in poor countries, according to an anti-corruption group which released a survey Tuesday that had Finland as the world’s cleanest nation and Bangladesh as the most corrupt.

“The whole world recognizes that corruption impoverishes people all over the world. ... We cannot and we must not drop our guard,” said Transparency International head Peter Eigen at the group’s London release of its latest annual survey.

The group said its 2003 “Corruption Perceptions Index” showed public sector corruption in many rich countries but an even worse picture among poor nations.

After Bangladesh, the worst offenders were Nigeria, Haiti, Paraguay, Myanmar, Tajikistan, Georgia, Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Angola, Kenya and Indonesia — all scored under two on a scale of one to ten.

At the other end of the scale, after Finland, which got a squeaky-clean 9.7, the least corrupt were Iceland, Denmark, New Zealand, Singapore and Sweden. They all scored more than nine.

The United States came 18th — jointly with Ireland — with a score of 7.5. Iraq came 113th with 2.2, a score based mostly on data prior to the U.S.-led war that ousted Saddam Hussein.

The corrupting power of oil was evident in the bad showing of nations like Nigeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Libya, Venezuela and Iraq, the group said.

TI picked out European nations Greece and Italy as having “worryingly high” levels of corruption. They came 50th and 35th respectively with scores of 4.3 and 5.3.

The list of the 133 nations with sufficient data available was based on surveys of businessmen, analysts and residents’ views of the prevalence of bribes and theft. The group defines corruption as abuse of public office for private gain.

While Finland and Bangladesh repeated their placings from the 2002 index, there were numerous changes in the list.

Transparency International said the most improved countries were Austria, Belgium, Colombia, France, Germany, Ireland, Malaysia, Norway, and Tunisia.

Argentina, Belarus, Chile, Canada, Israel, Luxembourg, Poland, the United States and Zimbabwe slipped on the list, Eigen said.

Appeal for Kenya
The Berlin-based group hailed a soon-to-be-signed U.N. anti-corruption pact as an “unprecedented breakthrough” and urged rich nations to back governments of poor countries tackling the problem.

It singled out Kenya’s reformist President Mwai Kibaki as needing special support.

“To turn Kenya into a country where corruption is not the order of the day requires sustained commitment at both the national and international level, both in terms of financial resources and practical support,” Eigen said.

Kenya came joint 122nd with Indonesia on a score of 1.9.

Transparency International urged donor countries and international institutions to take a tougher line on corrupt governments by limiting financial support, and to blacklist any international companies caught paying bribes.

Western governments must get serious on tackling their companies that bribe abroad, Eigen said.

“Their bribes and incentives to corrupt public officials and politicians are undermining the prospects of sustainable development in poorer countries,” he said.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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