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U.S. drops 4 points in corruption perception index; out of top 20

By on January 29, 2019

SAN JUAN – The 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released Tuesday “reveals the United States as a key country to watch in a global pattern of stagnating anti-corruption efforts and a worldwide crisis of democracy,” according to Transparency International, the organization that conducts the research in its efforts against corruption.

With a score of 71, the United States dropped four points since last year. This marks the first time since 2011 that it falls outside of the top 20 countries on the CPI.

The CPI measures public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories, “drawing on 13 expert assessments and surveys of business executives to give each country a score from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). Five of the nine sources used to compile the score for the US showed a noteworthy drop in score,” the organization said–referring to the country’s rating by the World Economic Forum EOS, IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, Varieties of Democracy Project, PERC Asia Risk Guide and Bertelsmann Foundation Sustainable Governance Index–adding that other sources showed no improvement.

“A four point drop in the CPI score is a red flag and comes at a time when the US is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balances, as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power,” said Zoe Reiter, acting representative to the United States at Transparency International. “If this trend continues, it would indicate a serious corruption problem in a country that has taken a lead on the issue globally. This is a bipartisan issue that requires a bipartisan solution.”

Transparency International’s cross-analysis–which includes data from the Democracy Index, produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit, and the Freedom in the World Index by Freedom House–reveals a link between corruption and the health of democracies.

“Full democracies score an average of 75 on the CPI, with no full democracy scoring less than 50. In 2016, the United States was downgraded from a full to a flawed democracy in the Democracy Index, a gradual downward trend which started in 2008. In 2018, the US received its lowest Freedom in the World Index score for political rights since 1972, when measurement began.

Denmark and New Zealand top the index with 88 and 87 points, respectively. Somalia, Syria and South Sudan are at the bottom of the index, with 10, 13 and 13 points respectively.

Overall, more than two-thirds of countries score below 50 in the 2018 CPI, with an average score of only 43. Since 2012, only 20 countries have significantly improved their scores, including Côte D’Ivoire, and 16 have significantly declined, including, Australia, Chile and Malta.

“Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions, and in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption,” said Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International. “Around the world, we need to do more to strengthen checks and balances and protect citizens’ rights, and the US is no exception.”

In 2017, a public opinion survey published by Transparency International showed that the U.S. government is losing citizens’ trust. According to the survey, nearly six in 10 Americans believed that the United States was more corrupt than the previous year, with the White House considered its most corrupt institution.

Transparency International emphasized the following as essential pre-requisites for fighting corruption:

  • A robust system of checks and balances on political power.
  • Effective controls against conflicts of interest and private influence over government decisions.
  • Citizen participation in politics and protections against voter suppression and other forms of disenfranchisement.
  • A free, diverse and pluralistic media with regular and equal access to those in power.

To view the results, visit:

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