An annual study released by an anti-graft organization has revealed that countries with the least corruption have been best positioned to endure health and economic challenges due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index—which gauges the perception of public sector corruption, according to experts and businesspeople—concluded that nations that performed well amid the pandemic invested more in health care, making them “better able to provide universal health coverage and are less likely to violate democratic norms.”
The index showed that the United States hit a new all-time low in the rankings, registering a score of sixty-seven (0 is “highly corrupt” and 100 is “very clean”). That figure placed the country in a tie for twenty-fifth along with Chile.
In 2019, the United States boasted a score of sixty-nine, seventy-one in 2018, and seventy-five in 2017.
“In addition to alleged conflicts of interest and abuse of office at the highest level, in 2020 weak oversight of the $1 trillion COVID-19 relief package raised serious concerns and marked a retreat from longstanding democratic norms promoting accountable government,” the report said.
A deeper look into the index’s analysis proved that there was a strong link between corruption and coronavirus response. For example, Uruguay ranked twenty-first with a score of seventy-one—it is a country that is known to invest heavily in health care and has a robust epidemiological surveillance system.
On the other hand, Bangladesh, which ranked a hundred forty-sixth with a score of twenty-six, “invests little in health care while corruption flourishes during COVID-19, ranging from bribery in health clinics to misappropriated aid. Corruption is also pervasive in the procurement of medical supplies,” the report stated.
Denmark and New Zealand tied for first place in the index with a score of eighty-eight, followed by Finland, Singapore, Switzerland, and Sweden with eighty-five. Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg rounded out the top ten.
Meanwhile, Somalia and South Sudan had the worst scores with twelve. Next came Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, North Korea, Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In all, a hundred eighty countries were surveyed, and two-thirds scored below fifty, with the average being forty-three.
In a separate study conducted by Australia’s Lowy Institute, New Zealand scored the highest among all countries for its response to the pandemic.
According to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, New Zealand, which initiated early testing campaigns and nationwide lockdowns, has only witnessed roughly twenty-three hundred total confirmed cases and twenty-five related deaths.
The other countries in the top ten were Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, Cyprus, Rwanda, Iceland, Australia, Latvia, and Sri Lanka.
At the other end of the scale was Brazil, which was closely followed by Mexico, Colombia, Iran, and the United States. Brazil has registered more than two hundred twenty thousand coronavirus deaths, a toll that ranks second behind only the United States.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.