Special Report

The Most Corrupt Countries in the World

15. Yemen
> Corruption index score (0-100):
18 (tied-12th worst)
> Population: 28.3 million
> Region: Middle East & North Africa
> GDP per capita: $2,670.06

Yemen has been mired in turmoil for much of its quarter century history. In 2014, the country’s capital city was overtaken by Shia Islamist rebels, a key event at start of the ongoing civil war. That year’s rebellion was largely the consequence of gross wealth inequality in Yemen, which is common in the world’s most corrupt nations. The country’s substantial oil wealth, for example, is held by a small group of residents. Meanwhile, government corruption, and the resulting violence and turmoil, have left most Yemen residents far more likely to suffer than their neighbors in the region.

Less than half of all people in Yemen have access to electricity, while 96% of people do across the Middle East and North Africa. Additionally, the childhood mortality rate in Yemen of roughly 42 deaths for every 1,000 children under five is nearly double the corresponding figure across the region. The United Nations estimates that four in every five Yemenis currently require humanitarian assistance. While the rebel group, known as the Houthis, maintains control of much of the capital city and major swaths of the rest of the country, neither the United States nor the U.N. recognize their legitimacy.

14. Turkmenistan
> Corruption index score (0-100):
18 (tied-12th worst)
> Population: 5.9 million
> Region: Europe & Central Asia
> GDP per capita: $15,334.52

A country rich in gas reserves, Turkmenistan’s GDP per capita of $15,335 is among the higher in the world and higher than the $9,942 per capita average of other developing Asian countries overall. However, not all residents benefit from the country’s gas reserves, which are the fifth largest on the planet. Just one-fifth of state hydrocarbon revenues make it to the federal budget. The remainder is controlled exclusively by the president and is largely unaccounted for. Poverty data is limited in Turkmenistan, but the Asian Development Bank estimates that 24.8% of Turkmens live on less than $1.25 a day, more than double the share of any other developing Central or West Asian country. According to watchdog organization Freedom House, corruption is widespread in Turkmenistan, and many of the nation’s leaders bribed their way into office. The state controls nearly all print and electronic media and Internet access, and political dissenters are often sent to prison.

13. Syria
> Corruption index score (0-100):
18 (tied-12th worst)
> Population: N/A
> Region: Middle East & North Africa
> GDP per capita: N/A

Syria has been in the midst of an ongoing civil war for nearly five years, leading to the collapse of the country’s government institutions. Syrians are fleeing the country in the millions not only because of the war, but also due to the record-breaking water shortages over the past decade. Considering all that, corruption is perhaps the least of Syria’s problems. Corruption, however, at least partially contributed to the current level of disaster. In 2011, President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces violently suppressed a group of Syrians protesting the arrest and torture of several teenagers. Violent reactions to protest from the government, which indicate a lack of accountability and are common in corrupt nations, only escalated unrest in the country. Since then, more than 250,000 people have died in the conflict, and countless millions have been forced into poverty. The chaos has not only splintered pro-government and opposition forces into smaller factions, but has also allowed the Islamic State militant group, known for its brutality, to thrive in the region.

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