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Friday, 6 July, 2001, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK
Is Bangladesh the most corrupt country in the world?
Bangladesh has been named the most corrupt country in Transparency International's annual corruptions perception index of 91 countries.

Hot on its heels came Nigeria and Uganda, while Finland, Denmark and New Zealand emerged with glowing reports.

Corruption is difficult to define and is perceived differently depending on location and culture. But the equation is clear: the poorer countries are the most corrupt and the richer ones are relatively unstained.

Some argue that corruption is a necessary part of development made more acute as the poorer countries struggle to play catch up. Perhaps richer countries simply have a different sort of corruption that is easier to camouflage.

So why is corruption so prevalent and visible in developing countries? Is it a necessary ill? And how fair is it to judge countries by these standards?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

It's poverty and poor administration that have led to such a state of affairs

Raja Dutta, USA
It's sad but perhaps true that corruption is very much prevalent in South Asia and not just in Bangladesh. It's poverty and poor administration that have led to such a state of affairs. Bribery is a way of life and well, if the whole system is corrupt from top to bottom, one can't hope that things will change for the better in the near future.
Raja Dutta, USA

Given the cost of living, it is hardly surprising that the ordinary public has to resort to receiving bribes to supplement their income. The people are not guilty, for the state of corruption, the Government is.
Karim Chowdhury, UK

How can you control corruption when the law enforcement agencies are the most corrupts of all!
Musa, USA/Bangladesh

To find out which country is the most corrupt, we need to define the word corruption. And if I understand the meaning correctly, then I think corruption is the only right that the local people have exercised in poor countries, whereas in developed countries this is strictly reserved for big government politicians. We worry about the 100 Rupee (or Taka whatever) that a local worker demands, but fail to voice protest against the millions made by so-called "leaders". Last time I checked, bribery was considered a part of corruption, and thinking of it, campaign finance comes to mind.
Bishnu Shrestha, USA/Nepal

The main perpetrator fuelling the corruptness is the government

Ibn Habibur Rahman, UK/Bangladesh
The fact that Bangladesh has been nominated as the most corrupt country in the word, does not surprise me in the least. I have been travelling regularly to and from Bangladesh for the last five years, and have noticed a huge deterioration in the law and order situation. The main perpetrator fuelling the corruptness is the government with its various bodies including the law and enforcement agencies; I personally have experienced corruption and extortion. On one occasion, a thug who was connected to the government (ie the ruling Awami League) demanded money of me, and threatened to harass my wife if I didn't pay up. On another occasion at the main airport (Zia International Airport) the police demanded money and threatened to take my wife away and do 'whatever they wanted to her'. As many Bangladeshis will admit, being dishonest is the norm and has now become a way of life. To speak the truth and to earn an honest living is considered abnormal. One of the first steps to wipe out corruption would be for foreign countries to stop sending aid packages. These aid packages mainly feed a corrupt and mismanaged government. The ordinary layman on the street who is in need of the aid probably ends up with little or nothing of the aid packages.
Ibn Habibur Rahman, UK/Bangladesh

While it might be a while before corruption is completely eliminated, a good beginning could be made by making available more services. For instance, allowing multiple phone companies might eliminate the need to bribe the phone company officials to jump the queue. The list is endless. There will always be an argument made that market economies only help the rich. I will argue back saying that only the rich can afford to bribe their way through the babu maze.
Ashesh, USA

Corruption is our own doing

Ahsen Ahmed, Pakistan/USA
Corruption is our own doing. The person who demands and the person who pays a bribe are equally responsible. I remember once when I had to spend hours at the police station because I wanted to pay a traffic ticket and get a receipt instead of bribing my way out. We can rid ourselves of corruption if every individual makes a sincere effort.
Ahsen Ahmed, Pakistan/USA

Of course, it is difficult to measure the amount of corruption and so also determine the rank. No doubt Bangladesh will be one among Top Ten. One should not forget that present Bangladesh is ruling by Awami League the most corrupt political Party in the history of Bangladesh. Bangladeshis who have seen their rule between 1972 to August 1975 are not surprised to see the rank.
Chowdhury M.H., United Arab Emirates

It comes as no big surprise that Bangladesh has come top in the world in the corruption stakes. International aid organisations as well as governmental aid from countries all over the globe fail to realise the fundamental flaw in the way they supply aid - they entrust the government - the highest source of corruption in Bangladesh - to redistribute it.

By the time those in the higher echelons of governmental hierarchy have taken their slice of the financial aid, the meagre amount that finally permeates down to those whom the aid was originally intended for is too little to make any real difference. The only way to prevent corruption in Bangladesh is to sew up the pockets of Parliamentary Ministers.
Raza Halim, United Kingdom/Bangladesh

Let's accept corruption as a global phenomenon

Adnan Shams, Denmark/ Bangladesh
Let's accept corruption as a global phenomenon and not only a problem of the developing world where it is more visible. So-called research never reaches the sophisticated level of corruption in developed nations.
Adnan Shams, Denmark/ Bangladesh

What a strange country we live in. I went back to Bangladesh after six years on 21st April and returned to the States on 27th June. I had decided that during this visit I would not lose my dignity by bribing someone in any situation. But I could not keep my promise. On my way, I was so sad to leave behind my mom, family and new wife. But my grief was stunted when I was stopped by the immigration officer and asked to "help" him by "whatever" I could "do for him". I did not wanted to give him any money but also I did not want to cause any delay in my departure. So I had give him 100 taka that I was carrying back to USA as a souvenir. I was saddened but I also felt bad. Where is our country headed to?
Sayed, USA/ Bangladesh

I think the method of determining corruption in different countries by TI is not scientific. It can at the most show a degree or prevalence of corruption, even in broad comparison among nations, but it can hardly rank them first, second, third....etc with any degree of scientific validity.
M. Saiful Islam, Bangladesh

On every visit to Bangladesh I have come across some form of corruption

Ebrahim, UK
I'm a British born Bangladeshi. On every visit to the country (five times now) I have come across some form of corruption (in Dhaka, Sylhet, Chittagong, Cox's Bazaar) - be it the police, a local official and even immigration coming back out of the country! So it's no real surprise from these findings.
Ebrahim, UK

Overpopulation, poverty, meagre resources, intense competition to succeed and provide succour to near and dear ones and the concept of hoarding for next generations all promote corruption. If every Bangladeshi had a car, a telephone, a computer, a house and four square meals a day, the rate of corruption would come down and would resemble the corruption pattern in richer countries.
Vivek Manchanda, US/India

I am not sure whether Bangladesh is the MOST corrupt country in the world, but definitely it is corrupt. Little is said why corruption is so prevalent and how to overcome the problem. Apart from the common fact that corrupt countries are likely to be poorer countries, there is another similarity - they are more than likely once ruled by the British. Can we speculate on the reason?
Bushra, Bangladesh

Not too long ago, a survey pointed out that Bangladeshis were the happiest people on earth

Sourav Dasgupta, USA/India
Not too long ago, a survey pointed out that Bangladeshis were the happiest people on earth. So is there a correlation between happiness and corruption? Such surveys are simply good gossip issues over a cup of hot tea and warm pakoras. Other than that, they make little sense.
Sourav Dasgupta, USA/India

Corruption is in the beholder's eyes. Entertaining politicians and government officials to strawberries and cream at Wimbledon or taking them out to Covent Garden is a legitimate, tax-deductible expense for western businesspersons; providing even a lunch to officialdom would be frowned upon by the common folk in the developing world, applying different norms of morals and ethics, as an unacceptable form of influencing the babus.
Mohansingh, India

This is not a surprise to any Bangladeshi. Corruption is part of the culture now. You assume that you will have to bribe to get anything done by the officials. The assumption is that an official has a right to bar the passage of an application and get something in his pocket for of it. Ordinary public feels they are helpless and it is best to pay up and get things done. At least Bangladesh has beaten Pakistan on this front!
Alamgir Khan, UK/Bangladesh

Corruption does not allow any system to work

Aga Rehman, USA
Corruption does not allow any system to work. Undeserving people get more, even the fair share of deserving ones. Richer countries may have some different kind of corruption then poor, but bottom line is the lesser the corruption, the richer the society.
Aga Rehman, USA

Acute poverty, illiteracy and police/army heavy-handedness lead to uncontrollable corruption. An open society like India makes it worse. There is no solution except to live with it.
Narinder Dogra, India

Corruption is perceived as a way of life in most developing countries

Guru Shenoy, United States
Corruption is perceived as a way of life in most developing countries. Most people themselves lack the moral ethos of what defines social responsibility. They are not hesitant to bribe officials in public and private sectors to expedite what they need a bit faster. It is openly evident in the offices of any and all public utilities in South Asia. Both the officials and the people bribing are simply immune to the immoral angle that accompanies this very thought and act. Countries should continue being judged along these lines, for it is the people and the entities there that define the overall culture of that country.
Guru Shenoy, United States

The two major reasons for the prevalence of corruption in South Asia are the underpaid bureaucrats, and the culture of giving 'bakshish'( gratuity) to officials for doing their work. The solution - increase the salaries of these bureaucrats, but the penalty for accepting bribes should be immediate suspension or termination.
Vish, U.S.A

Listen now
... to both sides of the debate
See also:

27 Jun 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh 'heads corruption league'
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