Analytical reading on the status of Arab countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index 2021
Analytical reading on the status of Arab countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 - S. Sharaf Almosawi
What is the Corruption Perceptions Index?
The Corruption Perceptions Index (CRI) is produced by Transparency International (TI) and launched in 1995. It is a composite index to measure perceptions of corruption in the public sector alone. It focuses on the legislative environment, procedures, the political and economic environment, and governance levels. The index is based on 13 independent sources, prepared by independent institutes or universities and analyzed by external experts appointed by TI. In order for any country to be added to the index, at least 3 of the approved sources are required, and the score is given out of 100, where zero indicates the highly corrupted and 100 indicates the very clean.
TI adopts a methodology with four main steps:
1. Select data sources.
2. Standardize data sources.
3. Calculate the average.
4. Report a measure of uncertainty.
The calculation process includes a rigorous quality control mechanism consisting of independent parallel calculations conducted by researchers within the organization and academic advisors not affiliated with TI. The CPI scores do not reflect the opinions of Transparency International or its staff.1
What Does the CPI Measure?
TI-appointed researchers extract data on corruption from approved sources, covering the following aspects:
2) Diversion of public funds
3) Officials using their public office for private gain without facing consequences
4) Ability of governments to contain corruption in the public sector
5) Excessive red tape in the public sector which may increase opportunities for corruption
6) Nepotistic appointments in the civil service
7) Laws ensuring that public officials must disclose their finances and potential conflicts of interest
8) Legal protection for people who report cases of bribery and corruption
9) State capture by narrow vested interests
10) Access to information on public affairs/government activities
CPI 2021 Sources
13 sources were used to prepare CPI 2021; they are:
1) African Development Bank Institutional Assessment 2021.
2) Sustainable Governance Indicators issued by Bertelsman Stiftung for 2020.
3) Transformation Index issued by Bertelsman Stiftung.
4) The Economist's Country Risk Services 2021.
5) Freedom House Report on Nations in Transit 2021.
6) Global Insight's Country Risk Rankings 2020.
7) The Global Competitiveness Yearbook is a survey of executives, issued by the International Development Institute in 2021.
8) Asian assessment issued by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, Ltd. 2021.
9) The 2021 Political Risk Services Global Country Risk Handbook.
10) World Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment for 2020.
11) 2020 World Economic Forum Executive Opinion Poll.
12) Global Project for Justice and the Rule of Law 2021 Expert Opinion Index.
13) Democracy Patterns Project 2021 Code VDEM Year of Release: 2021.
Rank of Arab Countries
Arab Countries CPI Rank and Score - Comparison between 2020 and 2021
As the above table shows, UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia occupy the first three ranks in the Arab region and are in advanced positions at the global level, their scores exceeding 50/100. However, their efforts are not considered sufficient to combat corruption.
On the other hand, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya rank very low on the CPI. Their scores ranged between 13 and 17 points out of 100 and ranked 178, 174, 172 respectively out of 180 countries. None of them enjoy a stable security and political situation, as most of the state's features have disappeared and were replaced with security and political chaos.
TI believes that after nearly a decade of Arab Spring protests that swept the region, political corruption continues to hinder the fight against corruption and progress towards democracy. TI assesses corruption in the Middle East and North Africa as systemic and deeply rooted both in institutions and in daily life. Its most important aspects are high-level political corruption, wasta, and gross human rights violations.
There are a number of issues that must be addressed to empower citizens and free them from corruption. Governments must begin by establishing solid democratic principles that allow for accountability by committing to reforms, protecting civic space, building strong and independent institutions, and respecting the separation of powers. They must also protect the media and whistleblowers, so that all parts of society can join collectively in anti-corruption efforts.
The COVID pandemic bolstered the environment that encourages corruption in most countries of the world, including the Arab countries. The corrupt have exploited this pandemic to evade procurement-related procedures, for example, and considered that purchases related to urgent response to COVID, such as vaccines, are not subject to tenders and may be considered state secrets. The conditions of the pandemic also provided an opportunity for authoritarian countries to impose more pressures on liberties, especially the freedom of opinion and expression and the freedom of CSO action, further reducing their space, and prevented the press from covering cases related to what happened in society as a result of the pandemic. The Freedom House Index for 20212 found that 15 Arab countries out of a total of 19 did not enjoy public freedoms. The Index measures the freedoms and rights enjoyed by individuals, especially political and civil rights, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This reality is reflected in one way or another on the increase in corruption in Arab countries.
|West Bank*||23||Not Free|
|United Arab Emirates||17||Not Free|
|Saudi Arabia||7||Not Free|
|Arab Countries ranking by Freedom index|
Source: Freedom House
Jordan received a score of 49, as in 2020. TI believes that the country failed to achieve improvement due to political corruption and inefficient government policies in general, as Jordan has been stuck at this score for five years. The high rate of changes in government and ministerial positions (four cabinet reshuffles in 2021) has made fighting corruption a difficult task. CSOs have also suffered from restrictions on their efforts. This myopic approach contributed to the lack of sustainable reforms. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was reported that the government had stepped up measures to limit freedoms of assembly and expression.
The Jordan Transparency Center believes that corruption is due to the weak oversight role of the House of Representatives, the lack of independence of the oversight institutions, and the existence of a qualitative conflict in jurisdiction between them. The situation distracts efforts and impedes coordination and partnership to pursue corruption cases, in addition to the lack of commitment to the principle of complete separation between the three executive and legislative powers and the intrusion of the executive authority over the legislative authority, which leads to a breach of the principles of oversight and accountability.3
Lebanon scored 24 points in 2021, the same as 2020. TI attributes the high levels of corruption in Lebanon to political corruption and the country's persistent multiple crises, including the tragic explosion in the Port of Beirut in 2020. The protests that have continued since October 2019 had called for systematic reforms. However, after the explosion, Lebanon went into meltdown. Large-scale economic protests and political instability (it went without a government for 13 months) over political corruption and economic collapse were met with persecution and repression by the authorities. The Lebanese political class failed to address the crises. The Pandora Papers showed that Lebanese politicians and businessmen owned 346 of the companies named in the documents. Therefore, it is not surprising that Lebanon has regressed since 2012. The country also suffers from significant deficiencies in public procurement and financial transparency. In an attempt to restore confidence in the government after the Beirut explosion, Parliament adopted two laws on access to information and conflict of interest, but they contain worrying loopholes that allow information to not be disclosed and the names of company owners hidden.
The collapse of the Lebanese Lisa caused a sharp rise in prices and the suffering of the poor, low-income households, and government employees. Economists believe that the reason behind this collapse is political, not purely economic, which confirms the dominance of political corruption in Lebanese public life. The expected elections in May 2022, expected to bring about a change in the current political structure, may lead to an improvement in the political situation. The Independent Anti-Corruption Commission has finally been established. If allowed to operate within international standards, it will have a positive impact on curbing political and economic corruption.
Egypt also achieved the same score in 2020 (33) in 2021, where it was 35 in 2019. TI considers Egypt one of the worst-performing countries in the past two years, with authorities punishing dissent, detaining journalists, politicians, and activists, and curtailing and controlling CSO activities. It also says that the country has met the protests with a harsh response, including the illegal use of force and mass arrests. Freedoms of assembly and expression remain severely restricted in the country.
In 2019, TI considered corruption in Egypt to be "rampant, in the absence of any real and serious political will and that the Egyptian government encroached on the Independent Anti-Corruption Authority. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi dismissed Hisham Geneina, the head of the Central Auditing Organization, in 2016 and tried him on charges of spreading false news about the economic situation in the country. The Authority had revealed that the cost of corruption in the country amounted to 600 billion pounds in four years until 2016.
Bahrain achieved a score of 42 in 2020 and 2021. This stagnation in the past three years is due to lack of change in the legislative environment related to combating corruption that could affect the score. In addition, Bahrain has not committed to implementing the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, including failure to issue legislation to establish an independent anti-corruption body, a law to protect witnesses and whistleblowers, and a law for the right to access information. There is still no national strategy to combat corruption.
There are also many interesting observations by international human rights organizations on the human rights situation, including the Human Rights Council and Human Rights Watch. The National Human Rights Strategy has not yet been adopted. The actual effective measures in the field of combating corruption related to awareness are insufficient and require more focus and public awareness. On the other hand, CSOs specialized in this field must participate and provide the necessary support to spread awareness but are not consulted in anti-corruption programs.
Morocco scored 39 points, after having recorded 40 points in 2020. According to TI, "an emergency law not only deprived citizens of their freedoms of movement, assembly, and speech, but was also used as legal cover for targeting government critics and human rights defenders speaking up about (mis)management of the country’s pandemic response. Pressures on the press and journalists had a negative impact on the national anti-corruption situation.
Mr. Ali Sedki of Transparency Morocco adds that "the rhetoric about fighting corruption, inactive programs and strategies, and bodies that do not enjoy independence, can only mortgage Morocco's future to continue to exist in the area of systemic bribery, which contributes to a loss of confidence in institutions and vulgarizing corruption to the point where it becomes a part of managing public affairs."4
The UAE achieved a score of 69 in 2021, compared to 71 in 2020 and 2019. The high score of the UAE in the region is due to the simplification of government procedures and the use of technology in government transactions, which reduces bureaucracy, and this will certainly reduce opportunities for corruption in the government sector. However, it also believes that obstacles and increasing cases of corruption are concentrated in the private sector, which has transferred government control over its business practices. The FATF has highlighted loopholes in anti-money laundering frameworks and deficiencies in disclosing the people behind anonymous companies.
Qatar achieved a score of 63/100, as in 2020, and is considered one of the best performing countries in the region. Although it has occupied advanced positions, TI believes that this progress is due to the simplification of government procedures and the use of technology. As in the UAE the private sector suffers from great opportunities for corruption. There are major cross-border scandals as mentioned in the investigations of the Pandora Papers, where some accounts were used as safe havens for tax evasion.
Qatar recorded violations of human rights and freedom of expression. A wide spectrum of Qatari citizens were deprived of their right to nominate and vote to elect members of municipal councils, due to the arrest of a number of activists. There are 25 political figures under arrest, including lawyers, academics, and human rights defenders. Meanwhile, criticism of the sponsorship system for foreign workers, including their residency status, and the ability to file criminal charges against them, has also been leveled, and these measures are believed to promote corruption.
Iraq scored 23 points in 2021, two points ahead of 2020. The fragile security situation and the presence of ISIS has a negative impact on all indicators. As previously shown by TI, countries that are unstable in terms of security have many cases of corruption and lawlessness. Iraq is one example.
Iraq needs to exert more effort to get out of the lagging positions on the index. TI believes that efforts to dismantle systemic corruption by a system based on power-sharing has been weakened by sectarianism. As a result, employees are appointed in their institutions because of sectarian loyalty and personal relationships, not on the basis of competence. It is natural that such institutions show little public accountability and instead are driven by the positions and political power of each group. Civil liberties and civil society are under constant attack and pressure.
Tunisia achieved a score of 44 in 2021, the same as in 2020. President-elect Kais Saied has taken the decision to “freeze” the elected Tunisian parliament in 2021 and several other worrisome measures, including placing the head of the anti-corruption agency under house arrest, which weakens existing accountability mechanisms and raises concerns about the fate of whistleblowers. He also dissolved the Independent Anti-Corruption Commission and finally, in 2022, dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council. All these measures ignited a series of popular movements to demand the reversal of these decisions that led to the concentration of all powers (legislative, executive, and judicial) in the hands of the president and which promised to return the country to the rule of dictatorship and tyranny. The Tunisian Street was divided between supporters of the decisions because of their opposition to the domination of the Ennahda Party (the Muslim Brotherhood) and those who oppose these measures and demand a quick return to normal. This loss of democratic gains is not just a setback for Tunisia, but rather for the Arab Spring as a whole, as the Tunisian experience was seen as the only successful experiment in the transition to democracy. Most of these measures came after the second half of 2020, and it is expected that they will have a direct negative impact on Tunisia’s ranking and score on the index in 2022 and beyond, as well as on other indicators such as the public freedoms index and the freedom of opinion, expression, and press index.
1. The task of combating corruption should be a priority for the political leaders in the Arab countries to get out of this impasse and work to strengthen the principles and procedures of accountability, governance, and transparency.
2. Benefit from global reports issued by independent international organizations to correct the human rights situation.
3. The issue of human rights has a direct impact on the spread of corruption, including freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of the press, and especially investigative journalism, which can reveal to executive officials many facts that are absent.
4. It is necessary to empower and involve civil society, especially professional associations specialized in this field, and to adopt the principle of participatory efforts to combat corruption, including the business sector and trade unions.
5. Implement what is stated in the United Nations Convention against Corruption and work on developing the legislative environment related to combating corruption. Among these laws are financial disclosure and graft laws and guaranteeing the right to obtain information.
The average rate of all Arab countries (as a region) was 34/100, and this is considered the second worst rate at the level of regions in the world, followed by the countries of Southern Africa, which had a rate of 33/100.
S. Sharaf Almosawi
Bahrain Transparency, Consultant
1) المصدر، منظمة الشفافية الدولية تقرير 2021