Where there is trouble, opportunity for corruption inevitably follows.
Some of the world's most tumultuous countries suffered setbacks this year in the fight against corruption, with civil war-torn Syria among the pack of nations increasingly at the mercy of bribe-takers and influence-peddlers, Transparency International reported Tuesday in its annual corruption survey.
Spain, Greece and Slovenia, where the turmoil has mostly been financial, also saw their good governance rankings slide in 2013.
Notable in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2013 was how little improvement was recorded in even the most open and law-abiding countries. Only two states -- Denmark and New Zealand -- scored in the top 10 percentiles on the 100-point index. The two countries at opposite ends of the world tied for first place with scores of 91, each up 1 point from 2012.
The bottom rung of this year's index was stubbornly unreformed, with Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia each matching last year's three-way tie for the most corrupt government with 8-point ratings.
Also unchanged from last year was the United States' 19th-place ranking with a score of 73, as well as China's showing in 80th place, though its score of 40 was a point higher than in 2012.
The assessments of public-sector corruption for each country are based on review of independent experts from 112 institutions, Transparency International explained in its report on methodology.
More than two-thirds of the 177 countries evaluated scored less than 50, agency chairwoman Huguette Labelle noted.
This year's index "demonstrates that all countries still face the threat of corruption at all levels of government, from the issuing of local permits to the enforcement of laws and regulations," said Labelle, a retired Canadian civil servant and former University of Ottawa chancellor.
By way of example, the Berlin-based corruption watchdogs cited an interview with a 33-year-old citizen of Yemen who was forced to pay police in the capital, Sana, $1,200 to investigate the robbery of his electronics shop of $15,000 worth of merchandise. In one of the poorest countries in the world, the bribe was equivalent to more than half of Yemenis' per capita GDP, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Yemen ranked 167th in this year's index with its score of 18, down 5 points and 11 places from its 2012 ranking.
Syria suffered the most dramatic setback this year, falling 24 places from a year earlier to 168th place. An intractable civil war that has killed an estimated 120,000 since March 2011 has obliterated normal government functions and fostered black markets and cronyism under the authoritarian government of President Bashar Assad.
Libya, also engulfed in sectarian and political conflict, saw its standing in the corruption index worsen this year, sliding from 160th place to 172nd.
Regionally, the European Union and Western European states collectively had the best showing, with only 23% of countries scoring below 50 points. By contrast, sub-Saharan Africa had 90% of its countries below 50, with Botswana leading the continent with its 30th place ranking and 64 points.
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