Kathmandu: South Asia is the world’s most corrupt region and rampant corruption is preventing its people from breaking the barrier of poverty despite the fact that the subcontinent has attained strong economic growth over the past several years, a global anti-graft watchdog said in Kathmandu on Wednesday.
“South Asia now is the worst region in the world when it comes to corruption based on our studies," said Srirak Pilpat, Asia Pacific director at Transparency International (TI), while releasing a report titled ‘Fighting Corruption in South Asia: Building Accountability‘.
“How does a region with such strong economic growth still have such high levels of poverty? It is corruption, which allows the few to profit without answering for their actions," said Pilpat.
“As long as nobody brings the corrupt to justice, South Asia’s leaders run the risk that future growth only benefits the powerful, doing nothing to help the half billion South Asians, who still live in poverty," he pointed out.
Governments in corruption-stricken South Asia must allow anti-graft agencies to investigate and prosecute corruption independently, TI said in the first comprehensive study on transparency and corruption prevention in the region.
The TI report analysed how well 70 national institutions in Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka stop corruption.
In South Asian countries, government and people who want to expose and investigate corruption face legal barriers, political opposition and harassment that allow bribery, secret dealings and the abuse of power to go unchecked, the report warned.
According to TI, Nepal improved from 139th position in 2012 to 116th in 2013 out of 177 countries surveyed in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) made public on Wednesday.
Despite economic growth averaging 6% a year over the past two decades in the sub-continent, 31% of people live on less than $1.25 a day, according to a World Bank report.
“Corruption in public bodies that should provide basic services to the poor means that economic growth is only enjoyed by the few," points out the report.
In Nepal, corruption in government organisations remained uncontrolled due to political interference, the TI Nepal chapter said.
“Governments will find transparency is the best investment they will ever make. Ordinary people can ensure their communities are served by governments, whistleblowers can save billions by exposing fraud," remarked Pilpat.
According to the TI report, 90% of Nepalese believe that political parties are corrupt or extremely corrupt and 85% consider public officials and public servants to be corrupt or extremely corrupt.
Interestingly, 72% believe that corruption in the country has increased over last two years. PTI