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Tue 17 Nov 2009 05:02 PM

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Corruption fears in Mideast still a serious problem

UAE improves ranking in global survey but region still suffers from perception of fraud.

The perception of corruption remains a serious problem in the MENA region, the results of a global study published on Tuesday revealed.

With only six countries scoring five or above (out of 10), and 13 countries scoring below five, the region was still hampered by concerns of business and political fraud, the 2009 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) said.

The index, published by Transparency International, said factors such as lack of transparency, insecurity and oil wealth continued to fuel corruption.

Countries where the political and security environment was particularly volatile, such as Yemen, Iran and Iraq ranked at the bottom of the list of 180 countries analysed.

Qatar was said to have the lowest perception of corruption in the region and was ranked 22nd in the global list while the UAE, which last year launched a major crackdown on corruption, was ranked 30th, an improvement of five places on the previous year's list.

In September, it was reported that a special taskforce had been set up to investigate the alleged corruption scandal in Dubai.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, ordered the Dubai Public Prosecution office to establish the unit to investigate fraud.

Several senior executives have been detained while companies caught up in the corruption probe include Tamweel, Nakheel, Istithmar World, Dubai Islamic Bank and Sama Dubai.

Elsewhere in the Gulf, Oman was ranked 39th, Bahrain 46th, Saudi Arabia 63rd - a leap of 17 places on its 2008 ranking - and Kuwait came in at number 66, the only Gulf nation to drop down the rankings this year.

Commenting on the improvement in the scores of Qatar, the UAE, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, the report said: "It remains to be seen whether this is due to increased political will to fightcorruption or whether the negative effects of corruption are being masked by large surpluses,particularly in the oil and gas-rich Gulf states, which are fuelling rapid economic development.

"In the case of the UAE, one explanation for an improved score may be the increase in corruption cases involving high-level executives, including UAE citizens, as well as the strengthening of the country’sFinancial Audit Department."

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