Perceived corruption on the rise in Arab states

In nine Middle Eastern and North African nations, surveys find widespread sense of growing public sector graft, abuse

File: Jordanian protesters chant anti-government slogans and demand from King Abdullah II swift political reforms and to end corruption in the kingdom, in Amman, Jordan, Dec. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
File: Jordanian protesters chant anti-government slogans and demand from King Abdullah II swift political reforms and to end corruption in the kingdom, in Amman, Jordan, Dec. 21, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)

Ordinary people feel that corruption has worsened in nine Arab countries and territories over the last year, especially crisis-hit Lebanon and war-torn Yemen, a study by graft watchdog Transparency International said Tuesday.

Its survey of nearly 11,000 respondents showed that corruption was also seen to be on the rise in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, Sudan and Tunisia.

Across the countries surveyed, 61 percent of respondents thought graft had worsened in the past year.

“Public dissatisfaction with corrupt leaders and regimes has been a key catalyst for change in the Middle East and North Africa, notably with the Arab Spring protests,” said the Berlin-based group.

“Yet, despite half a decade having passed since many of these protests first took place, our Global Corruption Barometer still finds widespread public dissatisfaction with government efforts to curb public sector graft.”

Transparency International added that “the majority of people in the region perceive corruption to have risen recently (61%), and many think that government officials and members of parliament are highly corrupt.”

The share of the population who saw worsening corruption stood at 92% in crisis-hit Lebanon, 84% in Yemen, 75% in Jordan and 70% among Palestinians, against 28% in Egypt and 26% in Algeria.

Among the people interviewed, 77% in Yemen and half of Egyptians said they had paid a bribe to obtain a public service, against nine percent of Tunisians and four percent of Jordanians.

Palestinians ranked in the middle of the spectrum among the nations surveyed.

Asked “how corrupt is the public sector,” Palestinians placed between Algeria and Sudan, with 33% of them saying “most” or “all” the public sector was corrupt. Forty-five percent said “some” were corrupt and just 10% said “none.”

Asked if their government was “doing well or badly in fighting corruption,” Palestinians were decidedly pessimistic, with 61% saying it was doing badly and 33% saying it was doing well.

Report author Coralie Pring said the group was “particularly worried” about Lebanon, a country that has been without a president since May 2014, amid deep political divisions.

“Across a number of different questions the public were very, very critical not only of government efforts in fighting corruption but also of a perceived high level of corruption across the public sector,” said Pring.

A note of hope came from Tunisia, a rare Arab Spring nation not to have tipped into chaos or dictatorship.

“Tunisia had actually very positive results coming out of the survey,” said Pring. “Many people feel that they can make a difference in the fight against corruption.

“Unfortunately even in Tunisia, despite the Arab Spring, still the majority of people were saying that their government is doing badly at fighting corruption.”

The figures come from local surveys conducted for Transparency International by regional polling firms. The Palestinian pollster was Khalil Shikaki’s Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

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