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The East: Corruption Considered Worse In Russia, Poland, Czech Republic

  • Robert Lyle

Washington, 1 August 1997 (RFE/RL) - A private international group fighting corruption around the world says surveys show that people perceive that corruption has gotten worse in Russia, Poland, and the Czech Republic since last year, but has improved in Hungary.

Transparency International (TI), a non-governmental organization based in Berlin, released its 1997 index of corruption perceptions yesterday in Washington.

The index is based on a survey of seven major polls of business people, Internet users, and the general public by established major polling organizations, including Gallup, Gottingen University, and the Institute for Management Development in Lausanne.

The index ranks only 52 countries because to be included, a nation must have been covered by at least four of the major surveys. Dr. Johann Graf Lambsdorff, an economist at Goettingen University in Germany, who developed the index for TI, says that since there are almost 200 sovereign states in the world today, it is "certain that there are many countries that may be perceived as even more corrupt than those (in) the index, but we do not have sufficient information to rank them all."

The surveys used to build the index found that most people perceive Denmark as the least corrupt nation and Nigeria the most corrupt.

Russia is only three places above the lowest spot. Corruption there was perceived to have gotten worse compared to last year. In 1996, Russia had a score of 2.58 out of a possible 10. This year, Moscow's score dropped to 2.27. No nation got a perfect ten.

In the middle of the 52 countries ranked are:

Czech Republic -- number 27 on the list -- with a score of 5.20, down from last year's score of 5.37.

Hungary, number 28, with this year's score of 5.18 an improvement over last year's 4.86.

Poland, number 29, with a score this year of 5.08, down compared to last year's 5.57.

Romania, ranked 37th with a score of 3.44 out of a possible ten. It is the first year Romania has been included on the index.

Transparency International's President Peter Eigen cautions not to assume these nations are either the very best or the very worst.

"TI is not saying in this index that one country is more corrupt than another. We are reporting how business people around the globe perceive levels of corruption in different countries." He adds: "We must also bear in mind that many of these business people are a part of the problem."

Additionally, he says, "cultural settings are likely to differ considerably over time and between different surveys and differing perceptions may be due to a change in awareness rather than real corruption."

Lambsdorff also stresses that many of the business people surveyed are from western industrial nations and many of the surveys used in compiling the index are run by western organizations, which may lead to some bias against developing countries.

Still, says Eigen, when different surveys and polls find similar concerns, it is usually an indicator that there is a problem. Further, he says, the index provides "insights into perceptions, which have an impact on how private companies, particularly in Japan, North America, and Western Europe, operate in the rest of the world."

Transparency says it compiles the index to help in its campaign against corruption everywhere in the world. The organization, founded in 1993, has more than 70 national chapters.