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‘WEAK IMPLEMENTATION OF LAW EQUALLY ON ALL’ Kuwait drops in transparency ranking

KUWAIT CITY, Dec 3, (Agencies): The international rank of Kuwait in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index dropped from number 66 to 69 compared to last year, while it landed on the bottom among the GCC countries. The index ranked countries through their perceived levels of corruption in the public sector with scores ranging from 1 to 100 — 1 being highly corrupt and 100 clean. In its analysis of the report, Kuwait Transparency Society mentioned several factors that led to the lower rank of Kuwait this year. It cited absence of tangible efforts to improve transparency and integrity levels with the exception of the establishment of the Directorate General for Combating Corruption, which had yet to start operations during the evaluation period.

The society also pointed out the weak implementation of the law, particularly the failure to apply it on everyone in a fair manner, as well as the hesitation to punish those who violate the law. On Kuwait being last among the GCC countries, the society said Kuwait’s democracy has become part of the problem despite being the first democratic country in the Gulf region, instead of enhancing an appropriate system of governance. The society emphasized the importance of evaluating the democratic experience of the country in order to determine the reason behind the spread of corruption.

This is in addition to finding solutions for Kuwait’s democracy to be the course of integrity in governmental and parliamentary proceedings. Kuwaiti civil societies have presented a number of recommendations to combat corruption. Officials welcomed and listened to these recommendations but no tangible effect is seen on the painful reality in public domains due to the fact that fighting corruption is not the priority of the executive and legislative authorities. This happened in spite of the wide use of slogans like ‘transparency’ and ‘fight against corruption’ in various occasions.

To improve the level of transparency, integrity and well guided principles of governance in Kuwait; the society suggested thorough review of the nation’s democratic concept, which must be developed until it becomes an important factor in cementing ‘rightly guided system of governance’ to include values of transparency, integrity, accountability and justice. The society stressed the need to endorse the transparency and integrity bill, as well as the proposed establishment of a directorate general for democracy.

This is in addition to a package of bills to enhance transparency; such as those related to conflict of interests, general principle of conduct, as well as the right and freedom to acquire and examine information. Other proposals that should be endorsed in this regard include the appointment regulations in leadership positions and the amendment of the Public Tenders Law. The State should activate and enforce the existing laws without exception or delay. It should activate the internal oversight and monitoring domains in government bodies through the establishment of an integrity office in every public institution. The society disclosed it has forwarded a bill in this regard to the government. In general, the Gulf countries, including Jordan, are on the top of the list compared to other Arab nations. Among the GCC countries, the United Arab Emirates improved as it came first (Arab and Gulf), followed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; while Oman and Qatar maintained their positions. However, Bahrain and Kuwait ranked lower than last year. Kuwait dropped internationally from 66 to 69 out of 177 countries included in the index. It lost one point from 44 to 43 out of 100. Its rank among Arab countries also dropped from number 6 to 7, while it is last among the GCC nations.

The top five countries are: Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Singapore; while those on the bottom include Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Sudan, Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia. Spain has slumped 10 places to a rank of 40 after a spate of scandals in its ruling centre-right ruling party and the royal family, watchdog Transparency International (TI) said. In its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2013, the anti-graft organisation said Spain was the second biggest loser of points alongside Gambia, Mali, Guinea- Bissau and Libya. The only country to tumble further was Syria, rocked by civil war. Spain’s five-year economic slump, which has forced it to adopt tight austerity laws, exposed how cosy relations between politicians and construction magnates fed a disastrous housing bubble.

The former treasurer of the governing People’s Party (PP) told a judge that he had channelled cash donations from construction magnates into leaders’ pockets, and he was found to have 48 million euros in Swiss bank accounts. The king’s son-inlaw, Inaki Urdangarin, was also charged this year with embezzling six million euros in public funds. “What the economic crisis has done is allow more public debate about corruption ... It is being exposed more and that affects perceptions. In Spain every sector — politics, the royal family and companies — was implicated in graft at a time when the country is really suffering,” said Anne Koch, TI’s director for European and Central Asia. The scandals also highlighted a lack of accountability in political parties and even the watchdogs charged with keeping them clean. This prompted lawmakers to react to public outrage and draw up Spain’s first freedom of information law. Spain had been the only European Union nation without a law guaranteeing citizens a right to information on how public funds are spent. Koch said the new law was still inadequate. The Berlin-based institute measures perceptions of graft rather than actual levels due to the secrecy that surrounds most corrupt dealings. It uses a scale where 100 stands for the most clean and 0 for the most corrupt. Greece remained the European Union state with the highest perceived level of corruption, although its four-point gain to 40 points helped it rise to 80th place from 94th in 2012.

 The biggest improver on points was Myanmar, which emerged from 49 years of military rule in 2011. The Southeast Asian state gained 6 points, taking it to 157 from a previous 172. Among the major global economies, the United States ranked 19 and China 80, both unchanged from last year, Russia improved slightly to joint 127th place, from a previous 133 and Japan slid one spot to 18. Allegations that leaders of Spain’s PP, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, took backhanders and the investigation into a member of the royal family are particularly damaging to Spain’s reputation as they involve such central institutions, according to Fernando Jimenez, lecturer in political sciences at Murcia University. “The problem in Spain is the political reaction ... Very few people resign here,” he said. He contrasted the Madrid government’s slow response to the illegal financing scandal in the PP with Germany, where cabinet ministers stepped down after much less serious allegations that they had plagiarised their academic theses decades earlier.

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