Israel seen as slightly more corrupt in latest global index

Watchdog finds Jewish state slips two points; is among least corrupt countries in Mideast, among more corrupt in developed world

Raoul Wootliff is the Times of Israel's former political correspondent and producer of the Daily Briefing podcast.

The Knesset at sunset. (Flash90)
The Knesset at sunset. (Flash90)

A new study released Wednesday showed a slip in Israel’s corruption ranking, placing it 34th globally.

According to the survey of 180 countries released by the watchdog group Transparency International, 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.

The 2017 Corruption Perception Index placed Israel 23rd out of 35 OECD nations with a score of 62, making it among the more corrupt in the developed world.

In comparison, in 2016 Israel ranked 28th globally with a score of 64, ranking it 22nd-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.

Heli Olami, the executive director of Transparency International Israel, said that results show Israel must work to protect “the independence of the courts and on a free media as part of a constant and uncompromising ​effort to rid Israel’s public sector of corruption.​”​​

Beyond Israel’s standing, Transparency International said the report “reveals some disturbing information” about global trends.

“Despite attempts to combat corruption around the world, the majority of countries are moving too slowly in their efforts,” the Berlin-based organization said. “While stemming the tide against corruption takes time, in the last six years many countries have still made little to no progress.”

The best performing region was Western Europe with an average score of 66, while the worst performing region was sub-Saharan Africa with an average of 32, followed closely by Eastern Europe and Central Asia with an average of 34. The global average was 43.

New Zealand and Denmark topped the list at 89 and 88, respectively, with Somalia at the bottom with a nine, then South Sudan with 12, Syria with 14 and Afghanistan with 15.

Britain was cited as one of the most improved over the past six years, raising its score by eight points since 2012 to 82, placing it in this year’s rankings one point above Germany and tied with the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Canada. The United States was tied in 16th place, along with Austria and Belgium, with a score of 75.

Other large increases since 2012 were seen in Greece, which rose 12 points to a score of 48 to put it in 59th place this year, Belarus which rose 13 points for a score of 44 and 68th place, and Myanmar which rose 15 points for a score of 30 and 130th place.

Australia fell eight points since 2012 and is now ranked in 13th place with 77 points, tied with Hong Kong and Iceland. Other large declines since 2012 included Syria, which dropped 12 points, Bahrain, which dropped 15, and St. Lucia, which dropped 16.

Incorporating data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, Transparency said it found that journalists were in particular danger in corrupt nations.

Over the last six years, more than nine of 10 journalists were killed in countries that scored lower than 45 on the index, and one in five journalists who died was covering a story about corruption.

Looking at data from the World Justice Project, Transparency said it found that most countries that score low for civil liberties also tend to score high for corruption.

“Smear campaigns, harassment, lawsuits and bureaucratic red tape are all tools used by certain governments in an effort to quiet those who drive anti-corruption efforts,” said Patricia Moreira, Transparency’s managing director.

AP contributed to this report.

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