That Bangladesh has slid one notch in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) is no tiny blip but a manifestation of the unrelenting malady the country is in. The Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) in its latest report has placed Bangladesh at 147th position among 180 countries-down one notch from the ranking of 146th in the previous four years-2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018. Among the eight South Asian countries, Bangladesh remains the second lowest in both score and rank, ahead of only Afghanistan. Presenting the report, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Dr. Iftekharuzzaman termed the performance disappointing, adding Bangladesh's score is among 122 countries that scored below 50 points, which are considered having a 'serious corruption problem'. In South Asia, only Bhutan presents a bright picture with a score of 68, ranking 25th from the top. Among the neighbours, India and the Maldives are the two countries ranked below the 100th position in the joint 85th slot with a score of 40. Others are well behind but ahead of Bangladesh which with a score of 25 wallows in the 12th position of the most corrupt in the world and in the 4th lowest slot among the 31 Asia-Pacific countries, better than Afghanistan, Cambodia (24), Myanmar (23) and North Korea (17).
Regarding factors behind Bangladesh's disappointing result, the report mentioned that the pledge of zero tolerance by the government against corruption was undermined, and no strategic initiative was taken to transform the rhetoric into practice. Widespread public sector corruption further intensified around Covid-19 response, including public contracting and distribution and no effective action was taken against "endless exposure of money laundering". Also, abuse of public office made the problem worse.
The same outlook was echoed in the World Economic Forum (WEF)'s Executive Opinion Survey, released last week, by the think-tank Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in the capital. According to the survey findings, one of the key risks facing the country in the upcoming years is corruption-- unabated, to say the least. As high as 64.6 per cent of the respondents complained about the high level of corruption seriously affecting business. Most of the indicators in the financial sector showed lower scores in 2022 compared to 2021, due to mismanagement and poor governance. A negative perception was observed in the case of the soundness of banks, accessing start-up capital, and financial and auditing reporting standards. Weak institutions are also blamed as the most challenging barriers to doing business in the country. Improvement of institutions has been found to be sluggish and most importantly, public entities dealing with taxes, licences, public utilities, judicial system, export, and import performed poorly. Performance of the majority of infrastructure-related facilities has been stated to be below the average level despite major public investments in key infrastructures.
The suggestions made by the TI are nothing new. Upscaling professional integrity of the ACC, public service and law-enforcement agencies, and ensuring accountability and transparency of the banking sector are some of the measures recommended. Well known that these are, there is barely any need to harp on them. Working on them may bring some changes for the better.