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Study Finds Populist Leaders -- Like Donald Trump -- Tend To Be More Corrupt


March 1, 2017
Ruby Mellen / Foreign Policy Magazine & Damien Stroka / Agence France-Presse & Nathan Giannini / Yahoo Finance

Transparency International's 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index pays special attention to the global rise of populism in the West. It argues that populism is caused by social inequality, which is then exploited by politicians. Taking aim at US President Donald Trump by name, Transparency International notes that, while populist leaders and movements are on the rise in part in response to corruption, they will likely only exacerbate widespread corruption as it continues to seep into democratic institutions.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/anti-corruption-populists-tend-more-202109750.html

Anti-Corruption Populists Tend to
Be More Corrupt, Report Says

Ruby Mellen / Foreign Policy Magazine

(January 25, 2017) -- Is your country experiencing overwhelming social inequality? Do you and your fellow citizens think it's because of government corruption? Congratulations! You're likely to elect a populist leader.

That, at least, is what most nations do, according to Transparency International's 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

The report annually ranks countries around the world based on their perceived levels of corruption (to be low on the list is to be high on corruption). High on this year's list, released Wednesday are Denmark and New Zealand, while Somalia and South Sudan are listed as the world's most corrupt nations.

The 2016 report pays special attention to the global rise of populism in the West. It argues that populism is caused by social inequality, which is then exploited by politicians.

Taking aim at US President Donald Trump by name, Transparency International notes that, while populist leaders and movements are on the rise in part in response to corruption, they will likely only exacerbate widespread corruption as it continues to seep into democratic institutions.

The Trump Organization on Tuesday said it hoped to expand hotels nationwide, now that the eponymous hotelier is in office. Also, now that he is president, Trump's Mar-a-Lago golf club in Florida reportedly doubled its membership fees to $200,000.

And so while Trump, who ran an entire campaign referring to his opponent as "crooked," is right to suggest that there is a link between corrupt institutions and social inequality, the answer is precisely not to elect a populist leader.

"The track record of populist leaders in tackling this problem is dismal," writes Finn Heinrich, research director of Transparency International. "They use the corruption-inequality message to drum up support but have no intention of tackling the problem seriously."

This pattern applies globally. Both Turkey and Hungary have slipped in the corruption index since they elected populist strongmen, while Venezuela has remained at the bottom despite the elections years ago of populist leaders Hugo Chavez and now Nicolás Maduro.

Politicians who run on anti-corruption platforms often foment corruption upon winning -- and Trump may not be an exception.

"In the case of Donald Trump, the first signs of such a betrayal of his promises are already there," Heinrich wrote. "The talk is of rolling back key anti-corruption legislation and ignoring potential conflicts of interests that will exacerbate -- not control -- corruption."

Some analysts believe Americans are historically less tolerant of bribery, especially while the media remains independent, making it less likely to tolerate the sort of rampant corruption prevalent elsewhere.

"The great test will be the administration's commitment to transparency," Alexandra Wrage, president of the anti-bribery non-profit TRACE International, told Foreign Policy. "To date, with respect to [Trump's] tax returns and business interests, the signs haven't been promising. Americans will tolerate a great deal from their politicians, but have generally drawn the line at clear conflicts of interest or perceived self-dealing," Wrage added, pointing to US politicians who have served prison time for bribery.

Ultimately, Wrage remains optimistic about a global decline in corruption and rise in transparency, though, she concedes, "the longer term is less promising now than it was a year ago," she said.

And that goes beyond corruption. America's credentials as a democratic republic appeared to be slipping even before Trump's rise. The Economist Intelligence Unit just downgraded the United States from a "full democracy" to a "flawed" one. Trump's election isn't a cause, the EIU said, but rather a reflection of growing distrust of government institutions and officials.



Rise in Populism Risks
Worsening Corruption: Watchdog

Damien Stroka / Agence France-Presse

BERLIN (January 24, 2017) -- The rise of populist politicians around the world risks undermining the fight against corruption, an anti-graft watchdog said Wednesday, warning that it feared a backslide in the US under new President Donald Trump.

"Populism is the wrong medicine," Transparency International said as it released its closely-watched annual Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks nations according to their perceived level of public sector corruption.

"In countries with populist or autocratic leaders, we often see democracies in decline and a disturbing pattern of attempts to crack down on civil society, limit press freedom, and weaken the independence of the judiciary," said TI chair Jose Ugaz. "Instead of tackling crony capitalism, those leaders usually install even worse forms of corrupt systems," he said in a statement.

The watchdog said that both Hungary and Turkey, "countries that have seen the rise of autocratic leaders", have slipped in the corruption rankings in recent years.

Concerns are also mounting about the United States, where Trump assumed power last week following a campaign that railed against the political "elite" and promised to clean up corruption in Washington.

But Finn Heinrich, a research director at TI, said he was "not hopeful" the US billionaire would live up to those pledges given his myriad business conflicts, his attacks on the media and his refusal to release his tax returns.

"When you see that Donald Trump has put his son-in-law as a senior advisor that smells off," he told AFP.

"His whole cabinet is full of conflicts of interest. He said he would drain the swamp. The first signs show that he would rather water it."

The United States fell two places to reach the 18th spot in TI's latest index with a score of 74 out of 100, down from 76 in 2015.

"If (Trump) keeps his promises to fight corruption, I think the US can improve. But if you look at his actions so far, what we worry about is that there will be a decline," Heinrich said.

Best and Worst
The Berlin-based group said in its statement that "deep-rooted" reforms were needed worldwide to tackle the inequality and systemic corruption that have proved such "fertile ground" for populists.

For its 2016 index, the watchdog ranked 176 countries on a scale of 0-100, where zero means very corrupt and 100 signifies very clean.

The data is based on surveys from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Economist Intelligence unit and other bodies.

New Zealand and Denmark shared the number one spot with a score of 90 points, with Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Norway rounding out the top five of squeaky clean nations.

Strife-torn Somalia was the worst offender in the list for a 10th year running, followed by South Sudan, North Korea and Syria.

Qatar suffered the biggest fall, with a score 10 points lower than last year's, which TI put down to the corruption claims dogging the country's 2022 FIFA World Cup bid.


The 4 Least Corrupt Countries in the World
Nathan Giannini / Yahoo Finance

(January 24, 2017) -- Denmark was named the least corrupt country in the world in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 released on Wednesday.

The index, which is published by Berlin-based Transparency International, aims to rank nations "based on how corrupt a country's public sector is perceived to be." The index ranked 176 countries on a scale of 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean).

While Transparency International notes no country is completely free of corruption, the nations at the top of the index share "characteristics of open government, press freedom, civil liberties and independent judicial systems."

Here is the top 10:
1. Denmark: 90
2. New Zealand: 90
3. Finland: 89
4. Sweden: 88
5. Switzerland: 86
6. Norway: 85
7. Singapore: 84
8. Netherlands: 83
9. Canada: 82
10. Germany: 81
10. Luxembourg: 81
10. United Kingdom: 81

Denmark finished on top for the fifth straight year. Those four countries have made up the top four in some order for each of the past six years.

So what makes them "cleaner" than other countries? According to Transparency Index the most successful anti-corruption tactics involve public participation -- these countries all use a "bottom-up model based on public trust, transparency and social capital."

They also "all have high GDP per capita, low inequality rates, literacy rates close to 100 %, and prioritize human right issues (e.g. gender equality, freedom of information)."

The United States (74 points) ranked 18th. It was ranked 16th last year, its highest position since the index began in 1995.


The 46 Most Corrupt Countries in the World
Nathan Giannini / Yahoo Finance

(January 24, 2017) -- Somalia received the dubious honor of most corrupt country in the world for the 10th straight year in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 released on Wednesday.

The index, which is published by Berlin-based Transparency International, aims to rank nations "based on how corrupt a country's public sector is perceived to be." The index ranked 176 countries on a scale of 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean).

The group estimates that "corruption, bribery, theft and tax evasion, cost developing countries US $1.26 trillion per year." According to Jose Ugaz, the chair of Transparency International, in the most corrupt countries "we often see democracies in decline and a disturbing pattern of attempts to crack down on civil society, limit press freedom, and weaken the independence of the judiciary."

In total 122 of the 176 countries ranked finished with a score below 50, which Transparency International identifies as having a "serious corruption problem."

[The least corrupt nation is Denmark. The US is in slot number 18, behind Belgium, Hong Kong, and Austria -- EAW.]

Here is the bottom 46:

176. Somalia: 10
175. South Sudan: 11
174. North Korea: 12
173. Syria: 13
170. Libya: 14
170. Sudan: 14
170. Yemen: 14
169. Afghanistan: 15
168. Guinea-Bissau: 16
166. Iraq: 17
166. Venezuela: 17
164. Angola: 18
164. Eritrea: 18
159. Burundi: 20
159. Central African Republic: 20
159. Chad: 20
159. Haiti: 20
159. Republic of Congo: 20
156. Cambodia: 21
156. Democratic Republic of Congo: 21
156. Uzbekistan: 21
154. Turkmenistan: 22
154. Zimbabwe: 22
153. Comoros: 24
151. Tajikistan: 25
151. Uganda: 25
145. Bangladesh: 26
145. Cameroon: 26
145. Gambia: 26
145. Kenya: 26
145. Madagascar: 26
145. Nicaragua: 26
142. Guinea: 27
142. Mauritania: 27
142. Mozambique: 27
136. Myanmar: 28
136. Nigeria: 28
136. Papua New Guinea: 28
136. Guatemala: 28
136. Kyrgyzstan: 28
136. Lebanon: 28
131. Iran: 29
131. Kazakhstan: 29
131. Nepal: 29
131. Russia: 29
131. Ukraine: 29

Somalia has not had a functioning central government since warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. The East African nation held a parliamentary vote late last year, but the process was marred by violence, corruption, vote buying and clan disputes.

The countries at the top of the list are generally clustered in Central Asia and Africa. Several war-torn nations, such as South Sudan, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Iraq are ranked in the top 10.

There is also a strong correlation between poverty and corruption. According to Ugaz, "in too many countries, people are deprived of their most basic needs and go to bed hungry
every night because of corruption, while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity."

One outlier at the top of the list is Russia. The US Treasury singled out Russian President Vladimir Putin for criticism last year for "enriching his friends, his close allies, and marginalizing those who he doesn't view as friends using state assets."

Several critics claim Putin has used his political power to amass a fortune that would make him one of the richest men in the world.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Denmark (90 points) was ranked as the least corrupt nation in the world for the fifth straight year. New Zealand tied for the top spot, while Finland, Sweden and Switzerland round out the top five.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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