Israel is perceived by local experts as being among the least corrupt countries in the Middle East but among the most corrupt in the developed world, according to a global survey of 177 countries released Tuesday by the watchdog group Transparency International.

Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index, which surveys countries based on local and international experts’ opinions of public sector corruption, ranks more than four-fifths of countries in the Middle East below 50 on a 100-point scale in which zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

Israel received a score of 61, well above the global average of 43 and the Middle Eastern average of 37. The figure placed Israel as the 36th-least corrupt country — by perception — out of the 177 in the survey, a rise of three spots since the last study, but came in at 23rd-least corrupt among the 34 OECD member countries.

The survey also found that Israelis feel that political parties, religious institutions and civil servants are among the most corrupt entities in the country. A full 79 percent of respondents felt that political parties were corrupt or extremely corrupt, 73% said religious bodies were corrupt, and 60% said public officials and civil servants were corrupt.

In comparison, only 21% said the IDF was corrupt or extremely corrupt, 33% said the judiciary was corrupt, and 49% said business was corrupt.

Three countries in the region that have faced persistent upheaval dropped notably in the rankings over the past year, with Yemen’s rating falling five points to 18, Syria dropping nine points to 17, and Libya down six points to 15. Iraq also dropped from 18 to 16.

Israel’s ranking has remained relatively stable and is “not bad,” said former state comptroller and retired judge Micha Lindenstrauss, who heads Transparency International’s Israel branch, but he still called on the government to “increase transparency in its operations.” Israel must do “everything it can” to increase its standing among the OECD nations, Lindenstrauss told Army Radio on Tuesday.

The index measures the perception of corruption in the public sector. 

Christoph Wilcke, Transparency’s director for Middle East and North Africa, said that there is a general feeling of corruption across the board in the Middle East, including police, judiciary, and government procurement offices.

“Imagine what it takes for a country to root out corruption — it always takes institutions with people in them who have levels of integrity and a system of independent oversight,” he said.

“In conflict situations, all of that goes out of the window right away… almost all sectors entrusted with public government functions are seen as corrupt,” Wilcke added.

Denmark and New Zealand tied for first place with scores of 91, followed by Finland, Sweden and Norway. Australia and Canada tied in ninth with scores of 81. Britain was 14th with 76 and the United States tied with Uruguay in 19th place with a score of 73.

Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia tied for last place with scores of 8.

The survey, first conducted in 1995, draws on a variety of sources that capture perceptions of corruption, including World Bank and World Economic Forum assessments, the African Development Bank’s governance ratings, and Transparency International’s own Bribe Payers Survey.

Greece, one of the countries hit hardest by the European financial crisis, ranked in 80th place with a score of 40, though that was still an improvement of four points over last year’s result. By contrast Spain, whose economy is also suffering, dropped six points to 59 points and placed 40th on the list.

Transparency’s Western Europe coordinator, Valentina Rigamonti, said that while Spain has seen several scandals and has approved little new anti-corruption legislation, Greece has announced an anti-corruption drive, convicted a former minister on embezzlement charges and has taken other action.

“These are really little steps in the fight against corruption but they are signs the government is trying to do something,” Rigamonti said. “The government showed they can do something but now, and in the long term, we need to see some more changes — especially in implementation.”

Most significant in Europe, however, is that the perception in most countries changed very little, she said.

“It’s stagnation and governments need to act more,” Rigamonti said. “Corruption is still a big problem in Europe.”