Transparency International's 2002 Corruption Perceptions Index 2002 (CPI), released Aug. 28 in Berlin, did not put Latin American countries in a favorable light. Argentina was singled out for its dramatic increase in corruption during the previous year, while Paraguay was ranked one of the three most-corrupt nations of those rated.
"Political elites and their cronies continue to take kickbacks at every opportunity. Hand in glove with corrupt=D4 and hampering sustainable development," said Peter Eigen, chairman of TI, the respected global coalition against corruption, at the release of the 2002 CPI. "Corruption is perceived to be dangerously high in poor parts of the world, but also in many countries whose firms invest in developing nations."
The CPI this year ranked 102 countries on the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians. It uses 15 different polls and surveys from nine independent institutions carried out among business people and country analysts, including surveys of residents, both local and expatriate. For the purpose of the CPI, corruption is defined as the abuse of public office for private gain.
Leading the survey's list of least-corrupt nations were Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Iceland, Singapore and Sweden, all with index scores above 9.3. The US was 16th with 7.7, Germany was 18th with 7.3, and France 25th with 6.3. But in the 2002 index, 70 countries--including many of the world's most poverty-stricken--score less than 5 out of a "clean" score of 10.
In the new index, the most extensive released by TI to date, Paraguay, with a 1.7 rating, had the highest perceived level of corruption of the 19 Latin American and Caribbean nations included in the survey. The Latin American country with the best rating was Chile, 17th, with 7.5.
Other Latin American countries and their ratings include Bolivia, Ecuador and Haiti, all with 2.2; Venezuela, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, with 2.5; Honduras, 2.7; Argentina, 2.8; Panama, 3.0; El Salvador, 3.4; the Dominican Republic, 3.5; Colombia and Mexico, 3.6; Peru and Brazil, 4.0; Costa Rica, 4.5; and Uruguay, 5.1.
Perceived corruption increased in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, and Venezuela. In contrast, the Dominican Republic showed the most improvement at 3.5 compared with an index score of 3.1 last year.
Eigen, a former World Bank official, said that, compared with 2001, confidence in democracy in Latin America suffered a serious setback, because bribery and bad government by political elites greatly reduced the credibility of democratic structures.
"In the past year, we have seen setbacks to the credibility of democratic rule. In parts of South America, the graft and misrule of political elites have drained confidence in the democratic structures that emerged after the end of military rule. Above all, it is the political parties that have undermined economic prosperity," said Eigen. "Argentina, where corruption is perceived to have soared, joins Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Haiti, and Paraguay with a score of 3 or less in the CPI 2002."
"In Argentina, first under President Menem, then President de la Rua, the state seems to have been captured by a network of leaders who misused it in the service of their business and political interests," said Eigen in a written commentary summarizing the CPI conclusions. "That is why an economic and social crisis has spiralled out of control. If businessmen only lobby to secure contracts illegally or to obtain sector benefits, their companies will have no lasting value for any stakeholders."
Argentina's 2.8 rating was the lowest it has received since the CPI began in 1993. Its ranking went from 57th (3.5) to 70th in one year.
One factor contributing to Argentina's …