In some circles, bribery is the worst form of corruption, though it is still practiced widely.
Bribery creates an uneven playing field for foreign investors and raises the cost and risk of doing business. Corruption, in the form of bribery, for example, undermines the rule of law, distorts prices, deters international investments, and stifles economic development and growth.
Bribery is a serious abuse of public duties. It shows moral degeneration and burdens both citizens and foreigners with unnecessary financial expenses. It is an act that has been criminalized by most governments, but most anti-corruption laws have failed to end it.
First, most institutional frameworks required to end bribery are inefficient. Second, some countries continue to experience such lawlessness that bribe-taking is part of life.
In some nations, corruption, resulting from specific power structures and reluctance in government policies, has made it easier to pay and receive bribes. Such countries have weak economic systems and continue to drown in poverty because a government official, a businessperson, a regular citizen, or a foreigner can commit a crime and get away with it by paying a bribe.
Thanks to whistleblowers and journalists many of these countries have become well-known. According to global corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI), North Korea, South Sudan, Somalia, and Iraq are some of the countries that top the list as being most corrupt. In these countries, there is little regard for the law and lawbreakers can pay a bribe and be pardoned.
When you take a closer look, you will notice that these countries have poor governance, impunity for corruption, unequal distribution of power/wealth, and weak institutions. What is common in most of these countries is a continuous attempt to limit press freedom, crack down on civil societies, interfere with the judiciary, and a decline in democracy.
The leaders of these nations have created a system that continuously rewards them while they oppress the citizens. Here are 15 of those countries:
At the moment, Syria is in a deplorable state due to a civil war that resulted from the Arab Spring. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight. The unrest has caused mass migration to various areas like Europe and has caused Syrians great suffering and hundreds of deaths.
Even before the war, the Assad regime had constantly been accused of corruption, and this may have contributed to the war in a number of ways. The taking of bribes built a distrust of the Syrian government in the run-up to the war. Citizens and businesses were constantly trying to avoid government officials who asked for bribes and this built resentment towards Assad’s regime.
As many officials continued to ‘supplement’ their incomes by taking various bribes, the Sunni were hit the hardest. The habit led to unemployment and caused more economic strain, eventually giving birth to protests that engulfed the entire country.
Syria has a corruption score of 18 and its security forces continue to perpetuate corruption in different forms.
14. SOUTH SUDAN
South Sudan is a young nation that received its independence in 2011, but the levels of corruption in this new state are shocking. South Sudan’s corruption score is 15, and may likely be attributed to the long-standing conflicts with its parent country, Sudan or North Sudan.
Still in its infancy, South Sudan lacks strong government structures, and this has created convenient avenues for corruption. Bribery is widespread in most sectors of the economy, and for one to succeed in business, a close relationship is necessary with the government and its officials.
South Sudan’s judicial system is also engulfed by corruption and a culture of impunity. The country has various corruption laws, but these laws have not been adequately enforced.
The police force is considered corrupt and ineffective, and there have been several cases where police have demanded bribes in the line of duty, or they have acted with impunity. Sadly, the police are rarely investigated.
More than a third of South Sudan’s companies expect to give bribes or other kinds of irregular payments to certain government officials so as to be issued with procurement contracts. The military and the government are the main contractors, and if you make friends with either, you are guaranteed to receive protection and to have a successful business.
According to Transparency International, India has the highest bribery rate among Asia Pacific countries. In India, seven out of ten Indians who have used public services have had to pay a bribe.
Though India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has shown continuous effort in making India corruption-free, the country is still plagued by bribery cases, especially when accessing essential services like healthcare and public schools.
The problem is that citizens do not pay bribes to hasten their access to such facilities. A good number of them have no access to these services, and when they are forced to pay pretty bribes, the poor are disproportionately affected.
Guinea-Bissau has a corruption score of 17. This Semi-Presidential Republic is home to some 1.7 million people, but a big portion of this population is underprivileged. Guinea-Bissau is a major hub for organized crime and trafficking; some of the reasons that have probably made it a hotbed for corruption. This West African state has also experienced a long history of misrule and political instability. In fact, no president has ever finished his term.
In Guinea-Bissau, corruption and lack of accountability are some of the biggest hurdles for the country’s growth. Organized crime networks have been tolerated for a long time, and they reportedly have links to the military and political elite. The United Nations labeled it a “narco-state” because of how its state institutions were facilitating the selling of drugs across its borders.
Sadly, this country has no substantial anti-corruption framework that can tackle the corruption menace. Guinea-Bissau recovered from a coup in 2012, and the incident halted any progress that had made in bringing reforms and transforming the country.
The underpaid army has continuously been accused of facilitating the work of smugglers. While political dysfunction is ubiquitous, the relative calm in Guinea-Bissau has benefited the drug lords and has propagated corruption to extreme levels.
After the second American invasion, the embattled nation has been left dealing with different sects that are trying to rise to power. Initially, the fight was between the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds, but things escalated when ISIS came into the picture.
Iraq has become a virtual power vacuum. Its natural resources and vast wealth have made it a target for corruption and earned it a corruption score of 16. In fact, the corruption levels are so high that Iraqis refer to the trade ministry as “the ministry of corruption.” This department is responsible for the food rationing system that has created an endless opportunity to collect bribes.
Companies expecting to conduct business in Iraq have to deal with several forms of corruption, not forgetting the several unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles.
The Iraqi government has been unable to implement its anti-corruption laws effectively. This has left the country vulnerable to corrupt acts like abuse of office, extortion, and bribery. Government officials engage in corruption with impunity, and this is mostly in the form of giving bribes to ‘receive favors.’
The police force has widely been accused of corruption, a characteristic that has highly undermined its effectiveness in administering law and order. Due to the corrupt nature of the police force, it has been easier to buy one’s way out of a crime.
10. NORTH KOREA
King Jong-un’s nation has been in the spotlight lately owing to its dictatorial policies and secret government system. The inner workings of its economy and government remain a mystery. What is clear is that North Korea has a massive military spending as evidenced by the ostentatious display of its military prowess.
This is probably one of the world’s most destitute and corrupt nations with very little hope for change in the future. A notable problem in this mysterious country is the increased bribery resulting from the growing demand for rewarding jobs. North Koreans who can bribe officials can get almost any job they desire.
Bribery has become a trend and has gotten out of control in this East Asian country. This is probably how North Korea ended up with a corruption score of eight: the lowest score according to Transparency International. Due to the high levels of corruption by public officials, counterfeit medicine, backdoor payments, and bribery are commonplace.
Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai was so corrupt that at one point he was busted for collecting vast sums of money from the American military.
The war-ravaged country is also known to be the host nation to heroin producers, and the illegal business has been known to benefit a few citizens. In 2012, bribes in Afghanistan were almost a quarter of the total amount of aid pledged by the international community, according to the United Nations. In fact, by early 2013, the cost of corruption stood at almost $4 billion, according to a UN survey.
This survey revealed that half the adults in Afghanistan had to pay a bribe to a public official in 2012, which was a 9% drop from 2009.
According to Transparency International, this Islamic Republic has a corruption score of 11, and as corruption persists, it has become more difficult for the less able to afford basic services. The UN has pointed out that the different forms of corruption in Afghanistan include abuse of power, nepotism, embezzlement of funds, and bribery. These forms of corruption start from the most senior government officials to the low-level officials.
In fact, bribery has become more common that it has been accepted as a way of life, with the education sector being identified as one of the areas mostly affected by this menace. The government has been viewed as a means for enriching oneself with most politicians only paying attention to their ethnocentric agendas.
In Angola, money laundering, embezzlement, and looting of state assets are prevalent. One of the reasons corruption may be high in this South African nation is because of Angola’s oil reserves, which has made it a hub for corruption and has maintained the country’s corruption score at 15.
Corruption is widespread mainly because of weak institutional capacity, a culture of impunity and the lack of checks and balances. Though the government criminalizes illicit enrichment, bribery, and nepotism, those who break these laws are rarely prosecuted.
Companies are known to make irregular payments to manipulate judicial decisions because the courts are subject to political influence by various citizens, government officials, and businesses. This ‘loophole’ in the judiciary has made it easier to ‘buy’ law enforcers with a small bribe. In fact, most companies are reluctant in taking their cases to court because the judiciary is considered weak.
It has been easier for Turkmenistan to fall into the corrupt list because of the constant turmoil in the Middle East. Turkmenistan has a corruption score of 18, and its government closely resembles an authoritarian dictatorship. The constant power struggle in this Asian country has left it vulnerable to corruption.
The country suffers from widespread corruption in almost all its institutions and across every sector of the economy. For a citizen to secure a procurement contract or obtain a kind of service, a bribe is often required, and maintaining close ties with ‘relevant’ government officials is almost compulsory if an investor wants to succeed in business.
Though the country’s law criminalizes a range of corruption offenses, enforcement has not been effective because most corruption investigations are usually motivated by political motives.
The police in Turkmenistan engage in corrupt practices with impunity and often solicit bribes from drivers with little regard to the law. One of the areas known to be most corrupt is the construction sector, and this has forced contractors to inflate costs to cover the bribes they have to pay officials.
Some critics believe Hugo Chávez caused Venezuela more harm than good. Things got worse when the country’s oil reserves were nationalized, and money started flowing into the pockets of high-ranking government officials. Since then, things have gotten worse, and Venezuela’s currency has declined significantly. Venezuela’s corruption is endemic, and its corruption score is 17.
The country’s judiciary has been highly politicized and has remained ineffective and inefficient in dealing with corruption. Therefore, corruption has continued to be a major stumbling block for businesses operating or those planning to invest in Venezuela.
Bribery and facilitation payments are standard, and the practice of giving ‘gifts’ in return for undue advantage is recurrent in almost all sectors.
In the past, there have been allegations that powdered milk meant for poor school children has been smuggled to Colombia and sold there illegally. Government funds meant for the poor are often stolen or mismanaged. As corruption worsens in Venezuela, the country is acquiring one of the worst records for human rights violations.
The country has experienced turmoil since the exit of Muammar Gaddafi, and its fall has largely been due to the Arab Spring. Libya is still unstable as there are still fights between rebels and those in support of the administration. According to the World Bank, Libya’s GDP shrank by 9.4% in 2013 mainly due to the high levels of uncertainty in the North African country.
The power vacuum that has been created has provided a favorable environment for arms dealers and corrupt military personnel to make profits from illegal activities. Libya’s corruption score stands at 16, and corruption has remained a major obstacle for companies looking to do business in this Arab nation.
Almost all sectors of the government suffer from corruption, but the oil industry and the public procurement sector are the most affected. State-owned companies dominate the domestic market and have left plenty of ‘room’ for corruption and bribery. Corruption was present under Gaddafi’s leadership, but it looks like it has skyrocketed. Sadly, the institutional framework that can combat corruption is ineffective owing to violence and political instability.
The problem is that the former regime perpetuated corruption to an extent where the old system sees the crime as the only way of getting things done. Administrative corruption is widespread throughout Libya in the form of corrupt contracts, money laundering, loan allocation, and bribery. Extortion in exchange for public services is as common as paying a small bribe to ‘wash away’ one’s sins.
According to the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index by TI, Haiti is the 159th least corrupt country out of 176 countries. It has a corruption score of 17, and its problems became evident in the wake of a severe earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people in 2010.
Much of the corruption is believed to be from the collusion among the politicians and the wealthy. U.S. firms have complained in the past that corruption is an obstacle to business operations in Haiti. They have revealed requests for ‘rewards’ from customs officials who seek payment to clear import shipments calling them solicitations for bribes.
Despite the corrupt state of the nation, Former President René Préval had shown his commitment to fighting the menace. He had actively tried to find ways of reinforcing the country’s ability to combat corruption.
Corruption, especially in the customs, is hurting smaller aid agencies and forcing them to halt all their aid efforts in Haiti.
In the end, this reduces the amount of resources devoted to making Haiti better. It also affects the business relationships that these agencies make with local Haitian entities. Such relationships are ideal for stimulating the economy.
This is a small and relatively poor country with a population of less than 7 million and a corruption score of 18. Most of Eritrea’s problems result from the single-party government and the recent influx of foreign investments.
This Horn of Africa country has mostly experienced periods of political instability because of its single-party government. The country has strict regulations on imports and has weak procedures for issuing visas to Eritreans who are looking to leave the country. This has encouraged bribery and money laundering, especially by those involved with immigration and customs.
Citizens, sometimes, are forced to part with a “gift” or bribe before they receive judicial or executive services. The Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 places Eritrea at number nine out of 176 regarding corruption.
According to reports, the Eritrean government managed to bring in some $1 billion from the Bisha gold mine in 2011, but most of this money has not been accounted for.
Parents are mostly pushed into paying bribes to enroll their children in particular schools while the police are known to use their influence to assist those who are close to them. For example, a police officer can facilitate the release of a friend or family member from prison. Several reports claim that police demand bribes from members of the public for different favors.
Like most Middle Eastern countries, Yemen is affected by constant conflicts. In fact, Yemen has been caught up in most of the issues affecting the Middle East and the country is undergoing a civil war, like Syria, as different factions try to gain control of the government.
Yemen’s corruption score, according to Transparency International, is 18, as corruption is rampant in this Middle Eastern country. The political instability that has been witnessed since 2011 has increased challenges for companies trying to do business in Yemen. In addition, businesses find it impossible to succeed without connections in the higher centers of authority.
The Judicial system has not been spared as residents have to make irregular payments and bribes to receive ‘favorable’ rulings in court. Government offices regularly require one to pay bribes to receive licenses or to process an application. If you delay in paying a bribe to a customs officer, he/she may intentionally drag your clearance process.
Somalia is one of the most unstable countries in the world. After several attempts of piracy (some successful and some not), Somalia has become infamous to most western countries, especially the United States. While the state tries to set up a central government, it is facing a significant challenge from competing clans and warlords who are always fighting. According to Transparency International, Somalia has a corruption score of eight and has almost no government.
Those in leadership roles have tried as much to hide the inner workings of the government and its economic system, which is understandable since no corrupt official wants outsiders getting the accurate picture of what is happening to this troubled nation.
Despite ranking as one of the most corrupt countries, insecurity is also an issue, and it has been brought by the political instability. Government officials are known to tolerate illegal activities in exchange for bribes, and the dysfunctional institutions make it even easier to break the law and get away with it.
Here, breaking the law is a small bribe from forgiveness.
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