Kuwait improves transparency … steady on freedom

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KUWAIT CITY, Jan 27, (RTRS): Kuwait improved its ranking in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2015 as it landed on the 55th spot compared to 67th in 2014 with a score of 49 compared to the previous year’s 44, according to the report published by Transparency International Wednesday.

Global watchdog Transparency International measures perceptions of graft rather than levels due to the secrecy surrounding most corrupt dealings. A country or territory’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). A country’s rank indicates its position relative to the other countries in the index. This year’s index includes 168 countries and territories.

Other GCC countries also improved their rankings with Qatar on top of other membernations as it landed on the 22nd spot compared to 26th in 2014 with a score of 71 compared to 69 in the previous year, followed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the 23rd spot compared to 25th in 2014 but retained its score at 70. Saudi Arabia is on the 48th spot compared to 55th in 2014 with a score of 52 compared to 49 in the previous year, Bahrain on 50th compared to 55th in 2014 with a score of 51 compared to 49 in the previous year, and Oman on the 60th compared to 64th in 2014 but maintained its score at 45.

Brazil suffered the sharpest deterioration in public perceptions of corruption last year, according to the report. The TI report measures perceptions of graft rather than actual levels due to the secrecy surrounding most corrupt dealings. Brazil tumbled to 76th place out of 168 countries, down seven positions from 2014.

Latin America’s largest economy was rocked by a massive corruption scandal at state-run companies, including oil giant Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras), which involved allegations against top government offi cials. Other decliners last year included Libya, Australia, Spain and Turkey. Turkey, which saw one of the sharpest declines in 2014 as a major corruption scandal buffeted the ruling Islamist- rooted AK Party, fell a further three points.

Two thirds of the 168 countries assessed scored below the 50 mark in TI’s scale where 100 stands for the most clean and 0 for the most corrupt, indicating that corruption continues to take a heavy toll on the global economy and governance. On a brighter note, however, the survey showed general perceptions of corruption around the world had declined in 2015. Among countries which saw an improved ranking were Greece, Senegal and Britain. Denmark retained the top spot in the rankings as the country perceived as most clean, while North Korea and Somalia were the worst performers, each scoring just eight on the TI scale to 100.

TI attributed the overall global improvement to the work of citizen activists fighting corruption in places such as Guatemala, Sri Lanka and Ghana — all countries which were able to improve their ratings in 2015. “Corruption can be beaten if we work together,” said TI chairman Jose Ugaz in a statement. “To stamp out the abuse of power, bribery and shed light on secret deals, citizens must together tell their governments they have had enough.” In another survey, Kuwait maintained its ‘Partly Free’ status in the Freedom in the World report for 2016 with a rating of 5 each for political rights and civil liberties. Freedom House, a US-based non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights, released the report Wednesday. The Freedom in the World report is an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in 195 countries and 15 territories. Each country and territory is assigned between 0 and 4 points on a series of 25 indicators, for an aggregate score of up to 100. These scores are used to determine two numerical ratings for political rights and civil liberties, with a rating of 1 representing the most free conditions and 7 the least free. A country or territory’s political rights and civil liberties ratings then determine whether it has an overall status of Free, Partly Free or Not Free. Among the GCC countries, Kuwait is considered the best since it is the only GCC member whose status is ‘Partly Free’ and the rest are ‘Not Free’. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia got a rating of 7 for political rights while Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) got 6. For civil liberties, Saudi Arabia’s rating is 7, Bahrain and UAE got six, while Oman and Qatar got 5. More than a third of the world’s population, or 2.6 billion people, live in nations and territories gripped by repression, corruption and human rights abuses, with the worst being Syria, Tibet and Somalia, the advocacy group said on Wednesday.

The year 2015 — shaped by mass migration, crackdowns on dissent, xenophobia and terror attacks — marked the 10th straight year of decline in global freedom. Worldwide, 86 nations and territories were designated free based on their political rights and civil liberties, 50 were deemed not free, and 59 were partly free, it said. The bulk of those deemed unfree were in the Middle East and North Africa, where 85 percent of the population lives with repression; sub-Saharan Africa where 20 regimes earned the not free ranking; and Eurasia, where no country was listed as free. The report singled out the United States — while free — as slipping, citing “a disturbing increase in the role of private money in election campaigns,” legislative gridlock, a lack of openness in government, racial discrimination and a dysfunctional criminal justice system.

Freedom declined in 72 countries in 2015, the most since the 10-year slide began. There were gains in 43 countries, with upward trends in Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, which all held elections. The slowdown in the Chinese economy and lower commodity prices took a toll, said Arch Puddington, vice-president for research at Freedom House and co-author of the report. “In many countries with authoritarian governments, the drop in revenues from falling commodity prices led dictators to redouble political repression at home and lash out at perceived foreign enemies,” Puddington said in a statement. “Democratic countries came under strain from terrorist attacks and unprecedented numbers of refugees — problems emanating from regional conflicts such as the Syrian civil war.” Notable for the year was a lack of progress for women, the report said. Citing Saudi Arabian women participating in elections and an end to adultery as a crime in South Korea, it said: “The very limited steps that were hailed as victories … demonstrated just how low the bar has gotten in evaluating progress toward gender equality.” Rounding out the dozen nations and territories with the worst scores were North Korea, Uzbekistan, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Western Sahara, Sudan, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Saudi Arabia.

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