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Thu 1 Dec 2011 10:22 AM

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Arab Spring takes toll on government corruption

Egypt, Syria and Tunisia slide in annual rankings of world’s most corrupt nations

Arab Spring takes toll on government corruption
Egypt has fallen down the rankings following ouster of president Hosni Mubarak

Awareness of corruption has risen
in some Arab countries
in the wake of their uprisings earlier this year, a
global league table released by Transparency International showed on Thursday.

North Korea was included in the
Berlin-based watchdog TI's annual corruption perceptions index (CPI) for the
first time and was judged the most corrupt country, along with Somalia, putting
them at the bottom of the table.

Tunisia fell to 73rd place from
59th last year, with its CPI score dropping to 3.8 from 4.3 in the 183-nation
index, which is based on independent surveys on corruption.

Tunisia became the birthplace of
the "Arab Spring" uprisings in January when a wave of protests forced
former President Zine al-Abidine to flee to Saudi Arabia.

The revolution set the template
for uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen which have re-shaped the
political landscape of the Middle East.

"We have seen a new movement
in Arab nations," said TI Managing Director Cobus de Swardt.

"You now have not only a push
for basic human rights
but also for public accountability. The lack of public
accountability has been recognized as a major problem."

Egypt fell to 112th from 98th,
with a CPI of 2.9, and Syria slipped to 129th from 127th. Yemen and Libya
shared 146th place last year and dropped to 164th and 168th this year
respectively.

De Swardt said change now appeared
much more driven by the demands of grassroots movements - which this year also
included heavy anti-corruption protests in India - than by governments being
proactive in improving transparency
.

"The last 20 years have seen
pockets of that [grassroots action], but it is arguably now in the Arab Spring
and the Indian Summer where it is the most widespread and very much driven by
good governance demands," he said.

Heading the index - in which a
score of 10 indicates a country with the highest standards, and 0 as highly
corrupt - was New Zealand with 9.5, followed by Denmark and Finland, sharing
second place with 9.4. New Zealand has topped the table every year since 2006.

Somalia and North Korea both
scored 1.0, with North Korea being included for the first time in the index's
16-year history. De Swardt said there had previously not been enough data to
include the Asian country.

"There are no checks and
balances in North Korea, no public accountability and total political control
of the judiciary. And on top of that, civil society as we know it does not
exist there," he said.

Most worrying, he said, was that
high levels of corruption fundamentally undermine food distribution, painting a
grim picture for North Korea, where the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
has warned of a coming "nutrition crisis".

About two thirds of countries
ranked in the index this year scored 5.0 or less.

However, TI identified Russia,
Iran, France, the United Arab Emirates, Poland and Cuba as states where
improvement had been made over the past year.

By contrast, it highlighted Haiti,
Zimbabwe, India, Saudi Arabia, Czech Republic, Ireland, Qatar and Costa Rica as
nations where perceptions had deteriorated.