No country is free of corruption. It is a severe problem in more than two-thirds of countries globally, some of which are major global economic powers, according to Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index. Somalia and North Korea are tied as having the worst corruption problem.
The index considers the levels of bribery, embezzlement, freedom of information, and other corrupt practices. It does not, however, capture all forms of corruption. It is difficult to measure the bribery practices of multinational corporations while doing business abroad, for example. In addition, the Corruption Perceptions Index scores are not based on the views of ordinary people. Rather, the rank is based on the opinions of corruption experts.
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Finn Heinrich, research director at Transparency International, explained that the countries at the bottom of the Corruption Index fall into two categories. Some, such as Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, are what some people call failed states. In these countries, “corruption is really an effect of a fully collapsing state and people are using all means available just to get by, and that involves corruption,” Heinrich said.
While some corruption can be expected under such circumstances, corruption can also partially explain — and exacerbate — the crises in these nations. Widespread corruption breeds mistrust of the people in the government, for example, and it also frequently means resources are shared by only a part of the population, but not others.
Heinrich explained that in many countries at the bottom of the index, inequality and poor distribution of economic resources are pervasive. “Basically, countries will fall apart,” he said.
In other countries — such as Angola, North Korea, and Turkmenistan — the state is not in disarray. On the contrary, “the state has full control over society and corruption is used for the elite to maintain that control,” Heinrich said.
Five of the bottom 15 countries are in the Middle East and North Africa region. Another six of the 15 are in Sub Saharan Africa.
Where these countries are located and what geopolitical advantages they offer to other countries can be major factors in how corrupt public and private officials are. A strategic position or the presence of oil, for example, can spur investment from wealthier nations. And most of the money amassed through corrupt activity almost never stays in these countries, Heinrich said.
“It’s being transferred into the north, into the west, and to banking systems, and many [western] governments are complicit in the sense that they don’t have the checks to make sure that those illicit financial flows are not being used in their countries to enjoy luxury goods.”
According to Transparency International, oil production will increasingly come from developing nations, which disproportionately make up the most corrupt countries. Perhaps as a testament to the level of corruption in these nations, the developing countries with abundant oil reserves are also home to some of the poorest populations in the world. Seven of the 15 most corrupt countries with available data have GDPs per capita of less than $5,000. The United States, by contrast, has a GDP per capita of $55,904.
In order to identify the 15 most corrupt countries in the world, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the lowest 15 index scores from Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index of 168 countries. Nations were assessed by experts as part of a variety of data sources. National economic data came from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). GDP per capita figures are based on purchasing power parity. Literacy rates, Gini index scores, and poverty rates are from the World Bank. All data are as of the most recent period available.
These are the 15 most corrupt nations in the world.