It may come as no surprise that corruption is a big problem in the Middle East. With 84% of MENA countries considered to have a serious problem by graft watchdog Transparency International, the region is clearly in the lower end of the global table.
Four countries are placed in the very bottom of the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2013:
Libya (172 out of 177 countries)
Iran is not doing much better on place 144. Only the UAE, Qatar and Israel score above 50, which is the limit for what Transparency International considers as “a serious problem.”
So why is this?
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Clearly conflict is not helping, as visible in the region’s worst performers. According to Christoph Wilcke, Transparency International’s MENA head, “conflict-wracked countries like Syria and Yemen significantly declined to the world’s bottom ranks for perceived levels of corruption.”
Wilcke writes in an analysis that “promises of a region in which governments value diversity of opinion and include civil society in their governance largely ring hollow.” One of the positive recent trends in the region has been the drafting of legislation guaranteeing access to information, but the implementation has been slow.
“When governments shut out the public, it comes as no surprise that opportunities for meaningful scrutiny and accountability diminish, and corruption risks in the public sector increase,” notes Wilcke.
During the last year, several MENA countries that were believed to be en route toward improved transparency have stalled. Only a few have marginally managed to climb the rankings.
Clearly, governments and other actors in the region have a lot to do to counter corruption in order to create fairer and more productive societies.