BERLIN (Reuters) – The United States fell 4 points in a global corruption index in 2018, falling from the top 20 countries for the first time since 2011, Watchdog Transparency International reported in a report in which growing threats called for democracy worldwide.
The US flag flies near the Statue of Liberty on the US Capitol in Washington, USA, November 2, 2018. REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst
The group said the latest report on corporate executives' corruption scandals had the United States addressed 71 out of 75 on a scale of 0-100.
That sounds like a "wake-up call" about the need to overcome conflicts of interest, inappropriate private sector influence and the widening of the gap between rich and poor, said Zoe Reiter, the watchdog's representative in the United States.
"This is a red flag, because it really is part of a pattern we've seen since the global financial crisis of 2008, in a loss of confidence in our public institutions," she told Reuters. "People do not see us as having adequate mechanisms to fight corruption and ensure the accountability of our elected officials."
Prior to the election of Donald Trump, concerns had already increased, though through the actions of a wealthy president who did not set precedents, he kept his personal tax affairs secret and kept his stakes in office.
"The concerns about the Trump administration are pretty serious, but that's been so for several years that it's schmortal," she said. "Conflict of interest was not a new problem, but he was enlightened in his glory if you have someone who essentially violates norms."
"Trump is a symptom, not a cause, his presidency highlights some of the issues."
Denmark and New Zealand scored the best results in the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), scoring 88 and 87 points, while Somalia , Syria and South Sudan remained at the bottom with scores of 10, 13 and 13, TI said.
Overall, more than two-thirds of the countries in the 2018 index were below 50 and the average was 43, the newspaper said TI with more than 100 chapters worldwide.
The group said that only 20 countries have significantly improved their results since 2012, including Argentina and Côte d'Ivoire, 16 others, including Australia, Chile and Malta, decreased significantly over the same period.
The average score for the EU and Western European countries remained at 66, while sub-Saharan Africa scored only 32 points, TI said. A score of 100 applies as "very clean", while a score of zero is badly damaged.
TI explained that his analysis showed a clear link between a healthy democracy and the fight against corruption in the public sector, citing declining values for Turkey and Hungary in the context of the rule of law and the freedom of the press.
Hungary's score has dropped eight points to 46 points over the past five years. With troubling developments, including the forced withdrawal of the Open Society Foundation and Central Philosophers University, founded by philanthropist George Soros, TI said.
Turkey's result fell nine points to 41 over the same period as the country was downgraded to "not free" in a Democracy ranking, TI said.
"Corruption thrives much more where democratic foundations are weak and where undemocratic and populist politicians can use them to their advantage," said Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair of the global civil society group.
Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Peter Graff