Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Transparency and Corruption in Egypt

Every year, Transparency International publishes its Corruption Perception Index for the world, looking at the perceived level of government corruption in all nations.  Each country is ranked on a scale of zero to one hundred; the higher the score, the more transparent the country's public institutions.  

In 2012, the study showed that two-thirds of the 176 nations ranked a score of 50 or less showing that there are a great many nations and national leaders that need to become more accountable.  Denmark, Finland and New Zealand were tied for the least corrupt with scores of 90 and Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia were tied for the most corrupt with scores of 8.  By way of comparison, Australia came in tied for 7th with a score of 85, Canada came in tied for 9th with a score of 84, the United Kingdom came in tied for 17th with a score of 74 and the United States came in 19th with a score of 73.  Among major developing economies, China came in tied for 80th with a score of 39 and India came in tied for 94th with a score of 36.

Now, let's look at Egypt, the subject of recent news headlines.  Egypt scored 32, tied for 118th place with the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Ecuador and Madagascar.  This puts Egypt in the bottom third among all 174 nations in the report, slightly ahead of Iran (with a score of 28) and Syria (with a score of 26).

Let's look back in time to see where Egypt stood in the past according to Transparency International:

2011:  112th place - score 2.9 out of 10
2010:  98th place - score 3.1 out of 10
2009:  111th place score 2.8 out of 10
2008:  115th place - score 2.8 out of 10
2007:  105th place - score 2.9 out of 10
2006: 70th place - score 3.3 out of 10
2005:  70th place - score 3.4 out of 10
2004:  77th place - score 3.2 out of 10
2003:  70th place - score 3.3 out of 10
2002:  62nd place - score 3.4 out of 10
2001:  54th place - score 3.6 out of 10
2000:  63rd place - score 3.1 out of 10

Not terribly surprising, the level of Egyptian government transparency reached its lowest level of the last decade and a half in 2012.  While the nation's raw score has shown some decline (in general) since the beginning of the new millennium, its drop from the top half of the pack to the bottom third is of most concern.  It is the perception of the nation's ever-rising level of corruption compared to its peers that will make it increasingly difficult for Egypt to attract economic investment that will help reduce its rather high unemployment rate as shown here, a big part of the nation's problem:

Let's look at a couple of examples that show where Egypt could improve its standing.  Back in November 2012, Transparency warned that the constitutional declaration announced by President Morsi concentrated too much power in the Executive Branch of the government, counter to Egypt's move toward democracy.  This declaration does not allow for the independence of the nation's judicial system, a move that acts against the protection of the rights of Egyptians.  The nation's judicial system recently sentenced 43 civil society workers from four democracy-based NGOs to a prison term of one to  five years because they allegedly used foreign funds without a licence.  Those sentenced include 19 Americans.  Those who were imminently headed to prison have since fled the country.  Unfortunately, the 11 Egyptians who were found guilty received one year suspended sentences and will be imprisoned if they engage in "similar activities" over the next three years.  Interestingly, as background, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was the source of $65 million that was distributed to civil society groups in April 2011.  It was this donation that created the brouhaha, with Egypt's Ministry of Justice threatening that groups found guilty of using the funds could be charged with treason.

Egypt has a long way to go before its citizens reap the benefits of their hard-fought battle to rid themselves of a series of dictatorships by finding themselves with a less corrupt government.  Unfortunately, the elections held in 2012 did little to resolve the nation's deep-seated problems and it appears that their is a strong perception that the nation is becoming even less transparent.

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