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Insights and Analysis

Debate over Corruption Heats Up

February 13, 2013

By Alma Freeman

Over the last few weeks, in our blog, our studies, in well-respected surveys, at think tanks and other organizations, and the media, the topic of corruption and transparency seems to be everywhere you look. However, there seems no clear consensus on the extent of the problem in various countries, from Mongolia to Indonesia to Afghanistan, nor what corruption and transparency actually mean for a country’s well being.

For example, a just-released Open Budget Survey from the International Budget Partnership ranks Afghanistan as the second greatest improved country out of 100 in budget transparency. That survey also places Indonesia in the top 25 percent in the ranking. At the same time, a World Bank analyst Peter Blunt, published a piece declaring that patronage remains a defining feature of governance in Indonesia. And a new UN report on Afghanistan found that corruption had dropped nine percent since 2009. It also found that the amount paid in bribes has risen by 40 percent to $3.9 billion, twice the country’s domestic revenue. Here are recent excerpts and analysis from In Asia:

Asia Foundation deputy representative in Indonesia, Laurel MacLaren, reacted to the new Open Budget Survey findings last week: “The survey certainly present good news for Indonesia, which is one of only 17 countries – with peers that include Germany, South Korea, and the United States – categorized as providing ‘significant information’ about the government budget to citizens.” But, she goes on: “Just as we were to let out a collective cheer, however, a copy of the article by World Bank’s Peter Blunt, “Patronage’s Progress in Post-Soeharto Indonesia,” reminded us of the many battles to come. Blunt’s paper credibly argues that patronage remains a defining feature of governance in Indonesia.”

Mongolia was again ranked the world’s fastest growing economy this year, and moved up 26 spots from 120 to 94 in Transparency International’s 2012 “Corruption Perceptions Index,” and up from 88 to 76 in the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business Index.” But, at the same time, local businesses still struggle under rampant corruption, according to a just-released Asia Foundation report. Foundation experts blogged about the direct impact on businesses in the country: “Over 17 percent of large businesses spent over 50 percent of their time overcoming non-productive obstacles, such as obtaining or renewing licenses, facing temporary prohibitions, and navigating an unstable regulatory environment.”

Also, in the Philippines, a new agreement brings two unlikely sides together – the media and political parties – that marks a step toward curbing rampant corruption in the media: “The covenant commits the signatories – both media practitioners and political parties and candidates – to reject engaging in acts that contribute to corruption in the media, which has consistently marred Philippine elections.” Read more from Maribel Buenaobra and Jerryll Reyes in Manila.

And, to the disappointment (but perhaps not surprise) of billions of soccer fans, investigators came out this week and declared soccer to be the world’s most corrupt sport, with the “epicenter of the global corruption in Asia.

Taken together, this information seems to prompt the age-old question: To what extent does corruption really determine a nation’s economic and social livelihood? Join the discussion.

Alma Freeman is The Asia Foundation’s global communications manager and editor of this blog. She can be reached at [email protected]. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.

Related locations: Afghanistan, Indonesia, Mongolia, Philippines
Related topics: Corruption, Media, Transparency


About our blog, InAsia

InAsia is a bi-weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia’s development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of renowned experts, InAsia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.

InAsia is posted and distributed every other Wednesday evening, Pacific Time. If you have any questions, please send an email to [email protected].


For questions about InAsia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to [email protected].

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