New Internationalist

Corruption around the world

Issue 396

Due to the hidden nature of corruption and the paucity of criminal convictions, scientific evidence is difficult to come by. Much of the information on these pages comes from surveys of people’s opinion, experience and perceptions of corruption.

Corruption by country^1^

According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index of 2006

Which areas of activity are the most corrupt?^2^

Out of 69 countries surveyed 45 ranked political parties as the institution most affected by corruption.

Sectors and institutions most affected by corruption
(1= not at all corrupt 5 = extremely corrupt)


The ten most corrupt heads of state, based on the estimated sums they are alleged to have stolen, are:

Daily life^4^

The amount that ordinary people have to spend on bribes in everyday life varies from country to country. So does per capita income and purchasing power. The table below shows the impact on ordinary citizens by indicating the actual amount paid in bribes (the green column) and what that amount means (the red column) in terms of affordability and purchasing power (known as Purchasing Power Parity).*

Bribes paid by household members over 12 months

*Purchasing power parity (PPP) is a method of measuring the relative purchasing power of different countries’ currencies over the same types of goods and services. It allows us to make more accurate comparisons across countries.

Who bribes most to get and keep business?^5^

Overseas bribery by companies from the world’s export giants is still common despite the existence of international bribery laws criminalizing this practice. The lowest bribers in 2002 had actually increased their propensity to bribe by 2006. The higher the score out of ten, the lower the propensity to bribe.

Propensity to bribe

Sleaze by sector^6^

The top ten business sectors most likely to demand or accept bribes are:

Corporate criminals^7^

Energy multinational Enron, which collapsed amid scandal in 2001, became a byword for corruption. Many others get away with it. Here are a few that got caught.

  • In recent times the US Justice Department has had to take action against Monsanto, ExxonMobil, Schlering-Plough, Titan, ABB and InVision Technologies (part of GE) for corrupt practices.10
  • General Electric (GE) was involved in so many cases of fraud that in the 1990s the Pentagon’s Defense Contract Management Agency created a special investigations office specifically for the company, which indicted GE on 22 criminal counts and recovered $221.7 million.8


And there are those who just make huge amounts of money from the corrupt deeds of others.

  • Between $20-$40 billion acquired from corruption in developing countries enters Western bank accounts each year.
  • Multinational companies launder around $207 billion of profits tax-free out of developing countries a year. By contrast, aid from rich countries to poor countries is $80 billion a year.
  • At least $11 trillion is currently held in off-shore tax havens – approximately 30 per cent of the wealth of the world’s richest individuals. Half of 72 global tax havens are British territories, dependencies or ex-colonies where Britain has significant influence.
  1. Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index of 2006.
  2. Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2005
  3. Transparency International 2004
  4. Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer 2005 and World Bank Development Indicators Online
  5. Transparency International Bribe Payers Index 2006
  6. Transparency International Bribe Payers Index 2002
  7. Corporate Crime reporter /
  8. Corporate Swine Inc Corpwatch
  9. World Development Movement, press release on DfID governance white paper 13/07/06.
  10. Paul Burnham Finney, ‘Anti-bribery efforts failed to stop executives from greasing palms’, The New York Times, 17 May 2005.

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