Monday, 16 December 2019 09:29

Corruption should be on agenda

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THE 2019 Kuala Lumpur Summit (KL Summit), to be held from Dec 18 to 21 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, has received an encouraging response, with 52 countries confirming their attendance, and more than 400 participants, including more than 250 from abroad.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan are expected to join Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the summit, which he will chair.

Unfortunately, fighting corruption is not listed on the agenda of the summit.

It should, in fact, take the necessary steps to address flaws in the global financial system that allow the corrupt to siphon off funds from the public purse and hide the proceeds of their crimes.

Last January, Transparency International Malaysia, the global anti-corruption coalition, released its 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) that drew on 13 surveys and expert assessments measuring the perceived level of corruption of public sectors in 180 countries and territories in the world.

A country’s rank indicates its position relative to other countries in the index .

The smaller the number of the rank, the less corrupt a country is perceived to be.

Based on CPI 2018, Jordan ranked 58th with a score of 49 compared with 59th with a score of 48 in CPI 2017.

Saudi Arabia ranked 49th with a score of 58, one score above its CPI 2017 ranking.

Oman ranked 53rd with a score of 52, compared with the CPI 2017 ranking of 68th with a score of 44.

Indonesia was in 89th position with a score of 38 compared with 96th with a score of 37 in CPI 2017.

The other Muslim countries’ rankings and 2018 CPI scores were: Turkey, 78th with a score of 41; Bahrain, 99th with a score of 36; Egypt, 105th with a score of 35; Kosovo, 93rd and with a score of 37; Pakistan, 117th with a score of 33; Yemen, 176th with a score of 14; Iraq, 168th with a score of 18; Sudan, 172nd with a score of 16 ; Afghanistan, 172nd with a score of 16; Syria, 178th with a score of 13, and Somalia, 180th with a score of 10.

Worldwide, Denmark stands tallest with 88 points, with New Zealand in second place with 87 points.

Finland, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland shared the third spot with 85 points.

Among the criteria used to determine the rankings are a robust rule of law, independent oversight institutions and a broad societal consensus against the misuse of public office and resources for private interests.

The 19th-century Egyptian scholar and jurist, Muhammad Abduh, once said: “I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I came back to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam.”

Currently, corruption remains the main problem in many Muslim-majority governments.

Most of the core values of Western countries, such as transparency, integrity, accountability, freedom, human rights and justice, are universal values which do not conflict with Islam or any other religion and are even important constituents of Islamic teachings.

A country’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

Thus, the countries with higher scores will rank much higher in position (as being less corrupt) compared with countries with lower scores.

It is interesting to note the trend in fighting corruption within Muslim and Muslim-majority countries.

The 2018 CPI results showed that no Muslim country ranked in the top 20 out of the 180 countries surveyed.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) took the 23rd place with a score of 70, topping all other Muslim countries.

Brunei ranked 31st with a score of 63, the second cleanest Muslim country followed by Qatar, which ranked 33rd with a score 62.

Malaysia is the seventh least corrupt country among Muslim nations but has moved up to the 61st spot — one notch higher than the previous year though it still retains a score of 47 points.

A study of 208 countries and territories by Professor Hussain Askari of George Washington University entitled, “How Islamic are the Islamic Countries”, showed that most countries which applied Islamic principles in their daily lives were not the ones that were traditionally Muslim.

The top countries in economic achievement and social values were New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark and Luxembourg. Malaysia was in 33rd place, Saudi Arabia 91st and Somalia 199th, at the bottom of the list.

Hussain said we listened to religious lessons and sermons more than people of other faiths, but we were still not the best of nations.

In the last 60 years, we have listened to 3,000 Friday sermons. We must practise what we preach or hear being preached.

Since the UAE, Brunei and Qatar are seen to be the cleanest and most trustworthy of all Muslim countries, they should share their best practices to improve the CPI score and reduce corruption in other Muslim countries. Even the G20 included anti-corruption as an issue on the agenda of their summit.

It is strongly urged that Malaysia, being the chair of 2019 KL Summit, put the anti-corruption agenda at the forefront of its initiatives and play a leading role in fighting corruption in Muslim countries.

The writer holds a professorial chair at HELP University’s Institute of Crime and Criminology, and was a former president of Transparency International Malaysia

Published in: The New Straits Times, Thursday 12 December 2019

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