RP most corrupt Asian economy: survey

Philippines is perceived by foreign businessmen as Asia’s most corrupt
economy, according to a survey Tuesday that also found countries were
failing properly to tackle corruption.

Singapore and Hong Kong
were seen as the cleanest economies, while China, Indonesia and Vietnam
posted improvements, the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk
Consultancy (PERC) said in a summary made available to AFP.

Perception of corruption in Thailand worsened, with the military junta
now in power after last September’s coup seen as little better than the
government it ousted.

“The Philippines has the distinction of
being perceived in the worst light this year,” PERC said after polling
1,476 expatriate business executives in 13 countries and territories
across the region in January and February.

In a grading system
with zero as the best possible score and 10 the worst, the Philippines
got 9.40, worsening sharply from its grade of 7.80 last year. Indonesia
had been deemed Asia’s most corrupt country in 2006.

PERC, which
provides advice to private firms and governments, said it had not noted
a worsening in the actual situation in the Philippines despite its
deteriorating score.

“It is bad and has been bad all along.
People are just growing tired of the inaction and insincerity of
leading officials when they promise to fight corruption,” it said.

The protracted corruption trial of deposed president Joseph Estrada “is
an example of the problem and probably explains why respondents to our
survey were so negative in their assessment” of the country.

Thailand and Indonesia, both on a grade of 8.03, shared the spot as Asia’s second most corrupt nations.

Thailand’s image worsened slightly on last year while Indonesia’s score was better.

The junta that ousted Thaksin Shinawatra as Thailand’s prime minister
last September promised to fight corruption “but there is no reason to
be confident that its behavior will be any cleaner,” PERC said.

On Indonesia, PERC said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s campaign
to crack down on corruption has “produced some positive results, but he
is still swimming against the current.”

The rankings of the 13 economies put Malaysia mid-table, marginally worse than last year.

“One of the big disappointments for many Malaysians is that Prime
Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has not been able or willing to follow
through effectively with his campaign promise to reduce corruption,”
PERC said.

China and Vietnam bettered their scores, but PERC
said that the improved perception was because corruption was not being
discussed openly.

“The media in both China and Vietnam is
subject to tight censorship. The only bad news the governments want
published is news that they see fit for public consumption,” it said.

China was the seventh most corrupt nation, according to the survey
table, up two places from last year. Vietnam was in 10th place out of
13, also up two.

was in ninth place. PERC said the Indian government must accelerate
reforms, warning that corruption can limit companies’ expansion plans.

Singapore again just beat regional rival Hong Kong as the cleanest
economy, although the latter posted a sharp improvement from its image
in 2006.

PERC’s managing director Robert Broadfoot told AFP this
may have resulted from a perception that “the differences between Hong
Kong and (mainland) China are even starker now.”

Singapore is
becoming increasingly vulnerable to corruption elsewhere, the PERC
report said, citing the soured investment by state-linked investment
firm Temasek Holdings in Thai telecom giant Shin Corp.

tax-free sale of Shin Corp to Temasek by the Thaksin family fuelled the
political crisis that led to the military taking power in Thailand.

Another problem, the report added, is that foreigners “who have
profited from corruption elsewhere in Asia sometimes seek a haven for
their ill-gotten gains” in Singapore, where rich Indonesian families
hold massive assets.

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