Transparency International, a respected Berlin-based nonprofit, has the much needed task of monitoring and exposing corruption around the world.
TI's annual Corruption Perceptions Index, released last week, found rampant corruption in 60 of 146 countries surveyed in 2003. Troublingly, 106 of the nations scored less than a 5 on TI's 10-point scale, and overall showed little shift in their rankings from the year before. (The US ranked 17, tied with Belgium and Ireland).
The three nations at the bottom of the list were Bangladesh, Haiti, and Nigeria, each with a government rife with bribery. (Other nations might be considered more corrupt, but aren't listed, due to a lack of reliable data.)
The survey also showed oil-producing countries, such as Iraq, typically rank as more corrupt, as they are found more prone to bribery and secrecy - habits that rob them of their true potential.
Finland, New Zealand, and Denmark led this year's rankings. In fact, Scandinavian countries, including Sweden, Norway, and Iceland, ranked among the top eight least corrupt nations. Finland has ranked as the least corrupt nation for the last five years. Why? The answer is elegantly simple: These countries have an admirable and longstanding tradition of honesty and transparency in government and private business. State documents are required to be made public, for instance, unless there's a good reason to keep them closed.
Clearly, more than a few nations could take a page from these countries' open approach to business. Cultivating such basic character traits and practices can help other countries achieve the prosperity and stability these top-ranked countries enjoy.