Corruption continues to be pervasive around the world. More than two-thirds of the world’s governments have a serious corruption problem. From rigged election results, blatant bribery, to embezzling of public funds to intimidating and murdering journalists and political opponents – unethical dealings are common across nations. The world’s most corrupt nations have the highest levels of dishonest dealings and seem to be doing very little to tackle their problems. For some, it even gets worse. Here are the most corrupt countries in the world, according to the latest Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by Transparency International.
This small, West African country is riddled with crooked dealings. It has become one of the major transit hubs for cocaine smugglers from Latin America to Europe. Several senior military officers are alleged to be involved in narcotics trafficking, and corruption pervades all aspects of the government. The government is opaque, and there’s a lack of public accountability. Their legal and institutional anti-corruption framework is still inadequate despite some attempts at reform. The fact that no president finished a term since its first multi-party elections in 1994 does not help. Anti-corruption efforts are mostly only lip service.
2. North Korea
Being one of the world’s most repressive states, North Korea remains one of the most corrupt in the world. Corruption is a key feature of life in the Hermit Kingdom, where all civil and political liberties are restricted by the government. The people have no freedom of expression, association, assembly, and religion. All organized political opposition, civil societies, independent media, and trade unions are also prohibited. Human rights are virtually non-existed. There are people who are forced to do illegal jobs to survive because the government systematically extract forced and unpaid labor from its citizens, including women, children, prisoners, and detainees. These people are forced to carry out activities and events that extol the ruling Kim family and the Worker’s Party of Korea.
In Afghanistan, corruption often takes the form of offering and demanding bribes in both private and public sectors. Family ties and tribal connections are very strong in this country, making nepotism a country-wide issue. Illegal land transfers and graft are also endemic. The country enables the production and trafficking of narcotics and fuel instability. Afghanistan is even the world’s top illicit opium producer since 2001, selling more than 90% of illegal heroin globally. Efforts to fight this trade is low.
Venezuela continues to fight a severe economic crisis that led to increased poverty and higher crime rates. Theft of public money, bribery, and nepotism has been big problems in the government and the police force. Venezuela faces severe shortages in food, medicines, and medical supplies, leaving many of its people unable to feed their families adequately and access proper healthcare. The massive exodus of Venezuelans fleeing their country to escape shortages and repression is one of the most massive migration crises in Latin American history. The opposition lawmakers of the government of President Nicolas Maduro have been barred from taking office. The South American country has been in a downward spiral for years with growing discontent in the government fueled by skyrocketing hyperinflation. Other concerns include impunity for human rights violations, harassment of human rights defenders by the government, and poor prison conditions.
5. Equatorial Guinea
In world standards, corruption in Equatorial Guinea is high and among the worst of any country on the planet. Corruption is so entrenched in the system that scholar Geoffrey Wood claims it can be classified as a criminal state. The African country is rich, but much of the population suffers from extreme poverty. Meanwhile, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his family are rich and live like royalty. The country is a dominant-party state, in which Obiang’s party holds all governing power in the nation virtually. The constitution gives him sweeping powers, effectively making the government a legal dictatorship. He openly told his citizens that he is taking full control of the national treasury to prevent civil servants from engaging in corruption. At the same time, his family and other state leaders came under investigation for fraudulent use of funds. He and his son own several properties and supercars in France. Also, serious human rights violations and repression of political rights persist in this country.
The conflict-ravaged country of Sudan has a profound problem with corruption. This country is one of the most challenging environments to promote anti-corruption efforts because it is present in all sectors and across all levels and branches of the government. Bribery, nepotism, and cronyism are prevalent in the country. It is common for public servants to demand bribes for services that companies or individuals are legally entitled to. Government officials have direct and indirect stakes in many business enterprises, distorting the market. In 2019, the people ousted their president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, bringing an end to his 30-year rule of the country riddled with crimes against humanity, massive corruption, and links to war crimes and genocide. He will face these charges in the International Criminal Court.
The brutal civil war has plunged the country of Yemen in a severe humanitarian crisis and broke the economy. This isn’t helped by the widespread corruption, especially nepotism that impedes any attempts at investments in the country. Across the nation, civilians suffer from a lack of basic services, broken governance, and abusive local security forces. The energy, communications, education, health, and judicial sectors have resulted in inadequate service or no service at all due to pervasive corruption. Thousands of families have no steady source of income, and many public servants have not yet received their salary in years.
Syria is still at war for the longest time now, and it still remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world as it is led by President Bashar al-Assad, who already killed many of his people over the past few years. The president, his family, and his supporters control almost everything in the country and are involved in myriad dubious dealings. The government restricts access to humanitarian organizations that need aid, and the government has been accused of stealing aid money. They selectively approve aid projects and imposes requirements to work with security-vetted local actors. The aid is given as rewards to those the government perceives as loyal and can serve their interests while deprived of populations perceived as opponents.
9. South Sudan
A textbook kleptocracy, South Sudan’s government, is ridden with severe corruption. Public officials have stolen large, untold amounts of public funds, and are very willing to accept gifts and monetary payments to do their services. This doesn’t help this country that is struggling with structural obstacles such as lack of basic infrastructure, weak market developments, and a constant level of insecurity. Corruption is common in all sectors of the economy and in all levels of the state. Political conflict on top of economic crisis and drought has caused massive displacement, causing dire food shortages and raging violence. More than two-thirds of the population live on aid, including around 7 million people experiencing hunger. Since its independence, the country has taken steps to promote public accountability and transparency to combat corruption, but its framework is still in its infant stages. Lack of resources, capacity, and political will prevent effective implementation.
Somalia is ranked at the bottom of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for seven years. Corruption in the country is prevalent in all levels in both public and private sectors and is a visible and expected form of behavior. Torn by rival warlords, the current government became weak. Lawlessness prevails in the country, and almost every aspect of life is unfortunately affected by rampant corruption. Somalia is rife with embezzlement, bribery, and abuse of power. Businesses have adjusted to the climate of lawlessness, by avoiding taxes and selling expired food and medicine, for instance. The implementation of anti-corruption laws is almost non-existent.