As the financial crisis has dragged on in Greece, bloody attacks unsettle Iraq and protests simmer after the revolution in Egypt, those and other troubled countries have lagged in corruption rankings, according to a global study released Wednesday.
The Transparency International rankings gauge how corrupt each country is perceived to be, based on opinions from independent institutions. The group cautions that its index does not measure corruption itself, but provides a rough measure of expert beliefs about foul play in the public sector in 176 countries.
The countries rated most corrupt were Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia, which also ranked at the bottom last year. Denmark, Finland and New Zealand again topped the list, while the U.S. ranked 19th.
While countries can move up or down somewhat simply because more or fewer countries are included from year to year, some shifts in the rankings underscored the problems plaguing governments across the globe.
Greece ranked lowest among the European Union and countries in Western Europe, and lower than China, El Salvador and Serbia. The country has been hammered by the European financial crisis and inflamed by protests over government cuts. Bulgaria and Italy also ranked low in Europe. Transparency International officials told the Associated Press that the rankings reflect concerns about the transparency of public finances in the countries worst hit by the crisis.
Concerns about corruption persist across the Middle East and North Africa after the Arab Spring uprisings ignited, the group also found. Egypt, which has seen a new wave of protests over a power grab by its new president, fell in the rankings
“Egypt is perhaps the most pertinent example where reform efforts are hindered by an old guard still bent on protecting their interests that are present in the political picture,” wrote Arwa Hassan, regional outreach manager for Transparency International.
Syria also tumbled in the rankings as armed rebels battle with the government, by far the bloodiest conflict in the Arab Spring. The lowest ranked countries in the Middle East and North Africa are Iraq, which has continued to be wracked by sectarian attacks, and Yemen and Libya, both of which overthrew their governments during the recent wave of uprisings.
While much of the news emerging from the report was dire, some countries made strides. One striking example was the Philippines, where the government has vowed to stop corruption. It jumped from 129th to 105th in a year that saw its former president arraigned on corruption charges.