Four Scandinavian nations and New Zealand are the world’s least corrupt countries while North Korea and Somalia are the most corrupt, according to the Corruption Perception Index released today by Transparency International.
Denmark (92 points), which topped the list, has occupied the No. 1 position since 2012. New Zealand (91 points), which was No. 1 both last year and in 2012, was No. 2 this year. Finland (89), No. 3 in the index, was unchanged from last year. Sweden (87) fell one place to No. 4. Norway (86) was unchanged at No. 5.
At the other end of the list are North Korea and Somalia (both 8 points), both ranked 174. Sudan (11), Afghanistan (12) and South Sudan (15) rounded off the bottom five.
The index ranked 175 countries on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be highly clean). More than two-thirds of the countries scored less than 50.
The United States (74 points) was ranked 17 on the list. It was ranked 19 last year.
You can click on the map below to see how other countries fared in Transparency International’s rankings:
The group says the index is based on “expert opinions of public sector corruption. Countries’ scores can be helped by open government where the public can hold leaders to account, while a poor score is a sign of prevalent bribery, lack of punishment for corruption and public institutions that don’t respond to citizens’ needs.”
Other takeaways from the index:
— Turkey, Angola, China, Malawi and Rwanda saw the greatest falls in the index. Each fell four points.
— Egypt, Ivory Coast and St. Vincent and the Grenadines saw the biggest improvements: 5 points each.
— Corruption and money laundering remained a problem in the BRIC nations: Brazil, Russia, India and China.
“Grand corruption in big economies not only blocks basic human rights for the poorest but also creates governance problems and instability,” Jose Ugaz, chair of Transparency International, said in a statement. “Fast-growing economies whose governments refuse to be transparent and tolerate corruption, create a culture of impunity in which corruption thrives.”
The group also called on rich countries to do more to prevent money laundering and to prevent secret companies from hiding corruption. It urged the nations at the top of the index to create public registers that would make clear who owns every company. Denmark already has such a measure, and Ukraine and the U.K. are in the process of creating one.
The index isn’t without its critics. As Alex Cobham wrote in Foreign Policy last year, “The problem with the Index, however, can be found in the name. Perceptions are not facts, and in this case they may be an unhelpfully distorted reflection of the truth.” And, as we noted while covering the organization’s report in 2013, the index has been accused of an “elite bias.”
But Transparency International says the index “is limited in scope, capturing perceptions of the extent of corruption in the public sector, from the perspective of business people and country experts.”