Denmark again took the top spot in an anti-corruption watchdog’s annual ranking of the cleanest to the most corrupt economies around the globe.
Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2014 gave Denmark a score of 92 on its scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). The rankings are based on expert opinions of public sector corruption. TI says a poor score is an indicator of “prevalent bribery, lack of punishment for corruption, and public institutions that don’t respond to citizens’ needs.” Denmark’s score improved one point over the 2013 results, when Denmark tied with New Zealand for the top score. North Korea and Somalia tied for last place this year, earning just 8 points each.
“Corrupt officials smuggle ill-gotten assets into safe havens through offshore companies with absolute impunity,” José Ugaz, chairman of Transparency International, said in a statement. “Countries at the bottom need to adopt radical anti-corruption measures in favor of their people. Countries at the top of the index should make sure they don’t export corrupt practices to underdeveloped countries.”
TI leaders said Denmark should be viewed as a model for other countries. They praised the country for its strong rule of law, support for civil society, and clear rules governing the behavior of people in public positions. TI also pointed to Denmark’s announcement this fall to create a public register listing the beneficial ownership information for all companies incorporated there. The United Kingdom, Ukraine, and the European Union all are considering similar measures.
Europe took seven of the top 10 spots in the TI rankings. Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland ranked third through fifth respectively, while the Netherlands and Luxembourg came in eighth and ninth. Germany ranked 12th on the index, with the U.K. and Belgium placing 14th and 15th. Ireland came in at 17th, the same as the U.S. Austria, France, Cyprus, Portugal, Poland, and Spain all placed in the top 50 of the 175 countries or territories ranked by TI.
Turkey did not fare well in the rankings, getting called out by the watchdog group for falling 5 points, which TI said was one of the biggest drops this year despite its economic growth. Turkey, beset in recent months by corruption probes and scuttled probes, ended up 64th on the rankings.
Overall, more than two-thirds of those countries surveyed fell below a score of 50. European countries in that mix included Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, and Romania, which all came in ranked 69th with scores of 43 apiece. Those scores put them on par with Brazil and Senegal. Scores for Serbia (41) and Russia (27) also fell a point from last year’s results, with rankings of 78th and 136th respectively. TI said Russia and other BRIC economies are struggling with corruption and money laundering.
“Fast-growing economies whose governments refuse to be transparent and tolerate corruption create a culture of impunity in which corruption thrives,” Ugaz said.
TI also has launched a campaign called “Unmask the Corrupt,” encouraging the EU and other G20 nations to create beneficial ownership registries to let the public know who actually owns companies.
“None of us would fly on plans that do not register passengers, yet we allow secret companies to conceal illegal activity,” TI Managing Director Cobus de Swardt said in a statement. “Public registers that show who really owns a company would make it harder for the corrupt to take off with the spoils of their abuse of power.”