The Two-Way
1:49 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Newly Released Index Finds Perceived Corruption Increased After 'Arab Spring'

As demonstrations continue to rage in Cairo, nearing almost two years after the revolution's onset, perceived corruption in Egypt and neighboring countries has worsened, according to a newly-released index.

Transparency International's (TI) 2012 Corruption Perceptions index ranks countries from 0 to 100 based on perceived levels of public sector corruption — 100 meaning no perceived corruption. Egypt dropped six places and now ranks 118th out of 176 countries.

Following Mubarak's downfall and Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, hopes were high. But now, after Morsi's power grab yielding him near absolute power and a controversial draft constitution in the works, anger has once again consumed Cairo's streets.

"We know that frustration about corruption brought people out onto the streets in the Arab world," TI's Middle East and North Africa director, Cristoph Wilcke, told Reuters. A democratic transition has not easily come to Egypt. Morsi is now facing allegations similar to those that toppled Mubarak's regime, and protesters are now demanding Morsi be held accountable and step down.

"As far as we can tell, very little has happened on the ground ... as far as putting in place systems that we know work to prevent corruption," Wilcke said.

Syria, currently engulfed by bloodshed, fell 15 places in the index to 144th. Tunisia fell two places, now ranking 75th, and Morocco fell eight slots to 88th out of 176 countries. While the numbers across the board look bleak for the region, Libya climbed eight places to 160th, following the Libyan civil war that ended last October, a hopeful sign for the rest of the region.

In comparison, the United States ranks 19 on the list, just below the United Kingdom. Israel takes 39th, and Cuba ranks 58, following Jordan, which has recently seen an uptick in protests. Greece, where protests over unemployment and corruption have been exploding since 2010, ranks at 94, the same as Colombia and India. Somalia is perceived as the most corrupt country in the world.

Around 78 percent of the Middle East and North Africa is perceived as corrupt – though it's not the lowest on the corruption totem pole, compared to 95 percent of Eastern Europe and Central Asia seen as corrupt, and 90 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa. (See here for a series of interactive infographics).

While the effects of the Arab Spring have yet to fully surface, and the transition to true democracy is far from over, Wilcke stressed that a worsening in Middle Eastern countries' rankings may merely be a result of people acknowledging and addressing the issue of corruption, not necessarily because corruption is increasing. "It's not possible to change things over night," he said.

Transparency International puts together this index using surveys and expert assessments from 10 private institutions including the World Bank.

(Sophia Jones is an intern with NPR News.)

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.