BERLIN: Corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) says at least two-thirds of the 177 countries surveyed in its latest index are more or less corrupt.
"All countries still face the threat of corruption at all levels of government, from the issuing of local permits to the enforcement of laws and regulations," says TI chair Huguette Labelle.
Denmark and New Zealand tie for first place with scores of 91 out of 100 on the index. Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia are the worst performers, scoring just eight points each.
"The top performers clearly reveal how transparency supports accountability and can stop corruption," notes Labelle. "Still, the better performers face issues like state capture, campaign finance and the oversight of big public contracts which remain major corruption risks."
Corruption within the public sector remains one of the world's biggest challenges, according to the watchdog, and this will lead to a "massive roadblock" in future efforts to respond to climate change, economic crisis and extreme poverty.
Noting the aftershock of typhoon Haiyan, TI warns that with the Philippines placed 94 out of 177 on its latest index, corruption could impact the US$504 million pledged for the aid effort.
Despite current president Benigno Aquino III winning power in 2010 on an anti-corruption platform, the day the typhoon struck the top news story was the trial of officials and businesses accused of diverting money from poverty programmes.
"Over the years, money that should have gone to developing infrastructure and health services was too often siphoned off by corruption. This is adding to the difficulty of responding to the disaster as poor roads and services hamper aid distribution and too many properties were destroyed because of inferior construction," says TI.
Cleo, Calimbahin, executive director of TI in the Philippines adds: "The government has shown it will be transparent in the disbursement of humanitarian aid, but we will see if this remains the case in the weeks and months to come. If the government is serious about fighting corruption, we hope to see generous and efficient efforts to serve the public in the rehabilitation of affected areas."
Commenting on the country's position on the latest TI index, Aquino's spokesperson Edwin Lacierda says the country's move up 11 places from last year's index continues a trend "in which the reforms put in place result in an increasingly positive and encouraging perception of the country [and] is also a measure of the continued confidence of the international community in the Philippines."
According to a new website set up by the government, to date 5,685 people have died, 1,779 remain missing and 26,233 were injured as a result of the typhoon. In response, 1,526 evacuation centers have been set up to provide temporary shelter to 85,652 families as the international aid effort deploys 33,692 personnel, 1,324 vehicles, 109 ships and 162 aircraft.
One of the aircraft was an Air France-KLM-Martinair Cargo 747 freighter (left) that has operated three flights from Amsterdam to Cebu, Philippines on behalf of UNICEF and the Red Cross.