Israel ranks 37th in world corruption study

Watchdog finds country ranks in bottom third of OECD nations, behind Qatar and United Arab Emirates

Illustrative: The Knesset, Israel's parliament building in Jerusalem. (Orel Cohen/Flash90)
Illustrative: The Knesset, Israel's parliament building in Jerusalem. (Orel Cohen/Flash90)

A global survey of 175 countries on perceived corruption ranked Israel 37th, a slight decline from last year, in a study released Wednesday by the watchdog group Transparency International.

The 2014 Corruption Perception Index placed Israel 24th out of 34 OECD nations with a score of 60, making it among the most corrupt in the developed world.

In comparison, in 2013 Israel ranked 36th globally with a score of 61, ranking it 23rd-least corrupt among the OECD.

More than two thirds of the 175 countries in the study scored below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100.

The report surveys countries based on local and international experts’ opinions of public sector corruption.

A high score indicates perceived bureaucratic accountability and government transparency, 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, according to Transparency International.

Israel’s results are “disappointing” and not enough is being done to fight corruption in the country, according to Galia Sagi, director of Transparency International’s Israel branch.

“The fact that year after year, we do not see the issue of the fight against corruption on the government’s agenda is a real cause for concern,” she said in a press release Wednesday.

Denmark and New Zealand were considered the world’s ‘cleanest’ with scores of 92 and 91 respectively, followed by Finland, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland – all with scores in the high 80s. The Unites States came in 17th with a score of 74 and the United Kingdom 14th with a score of 78.

By contrast, South Sudan, Afghanistan and Sudan were found to be among the most corrupt, receiving scores in the low teens. North Korea and Somalia came in last tied at 174, receiving 8 points each.

Israel’s leaders need to embark on a “campaign of transparency,” according to former state comptroller and retired judge Micha Lindenstrauss, chairman of Transparency International’s Israel branch.

“Corruption not only hinders economic development, but it also has serious implications for the public’s confidence in state institutions” he said in a press release Wednesday – a view shared by Transparency International’s global chair, José Ugaz

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Former State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss slammed Knesset members for “not doing enough to combat corruption” (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“The 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index shows that economic growth is undermined and efforts to stop corruption fade when leaders and high level officials abuse power to appropriate public funds for personal gain,” Ugaz said Wednesday.

“Countries at the bottom need to adopt radical anti-corruption measures in favour of their people,” he said.

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

Regional improvement

Several countries in the Middle East improved over 2014, defying pessimistic expectations due to the political turmoil sweeping the region in the wake of the Arab Spring. Overall, most scored significantly lower than Israel.

Jordan (55th) jumped 4 points to receive a score of 49, Egypt (94th) jumped 5 points to receive a score of 37 and even war-battered Syria (159th) managed an increase of 3 points for a score of 20.

By contrast, Turkey (64th) fell 5 points to 45, marking one of the sharpest declines noted in the report.

The United Arab Emirates (25th) and Qatar (26th) were considered to be the least-corrupt in the Middle East with scores of 70 and 69 respectively, slightly higher than Israel.

The regional average for the Middle East and North Africa was 38 points.

“In order to improve Israel’s ranking we must adopt and implement ethical and transparency standards for Knesset members and ministers,” Galit said.

“Protecting the rights of public whistle-blowers and anti-corruption organizations is key to ending the cycle of inaction plaguing [Israel’s political echelon],” she said.

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