Iraq, Kurdistan Region among most corrupt countries in watchdog's 2019 index

Map of Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 (Image Credit: Transparency International/Screenshot)

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SULAIMANI — Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International released its Corruption Perceptions Index 2019 on Thursday (January 23) with Iraq placing near the bottom of the rankings, reinforcing the fact that graft is an endemic problem in the country.

Overall, the organization found that “a staggering number of countries are showing little to no improvement in tackling corruption.”

Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, ranked 162 out of 180 countries examined in the annual study. It earned 20 out of available 100 points, putting it on par with Chad and Cambodia. Its ranking rose six places from the previous year.

At the heart of the ongoing anti-government protests sweeping Baghdad and the southern provinces is a critique that Iraqi governance is fundamentally corrupt, with elites enriching themselves from the public purse and wealth only trickling down to working class youth through deeply unfair and exploitative patronage systems. More than 500 people have died in the protests taking on this system.

In its 2019 Index, Transparency International noted that 2019 saw a number of anti-corruption protests across the globe, including in Iraq, Chile, Lebanon, Algeria, and the Czech Republic.

“This frustration fuels a growing lack of trust in government and further erodes public confidence in political leaders, elected officials and democracy,” the watchdog wrote.

“To have any chance of curbing corruption, governments must strengthen checks and balances, limit the influence of big money in politics and ensure broad input in political decision-making. Public policies and resources should not be determined by economic power or political influence, but by fair consultation and impartial budget allocation,” it added.

Denmark and New Zealand led the rankings this year, with Finland, Singapore, Sweden, and Switzerland rounding out the top of the list.

Somalia was viewed as the most corrupt country, with South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen also near the bottom of the ranking.

Iraq was viewed as the fourth most corrupt country in the Middle East and North Africa, trailing only Syria, Yemen, and Libya.

Politicians in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region frequently cite their rhetorical support for anti-corruption measures, but have made little headway towards solving the problem.

(NRT Digital Media)