Special Report

Most Corrupt Countries in the World

Corruption is one of the main causes of poverty and underdevelopment. A country can be poor and struggling to raise capital to fund government services through taxation and investment, but that challenge is made far worse when government institutions lack the checks and balances and transparency found in more developed, stable, and affluent countries, according to The Borgen Project, a Tacoma, Washington-based anti-poverty organization.

Bribery, embezzlement of public funds, abuse of power, and nepotism also contribute to conflict and violence. “Corruption and conflict feed each other,” explains Transparency International, publisher of the Corruption Perception Index. Political instability weakens oversight and creates a breeding ground for corruption. This is true even in more peaceful societies as misappropriated public funds can lead to violence and an increase in organized crime.

Unsurprisingly, many of the countries considered most corrupt are currently experiencing some kind of armed conflict.

To find the most corrupt countries in the world, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index. The CPI measure reflects perceived levels of public sector corruption ranging from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). Of the 180 countries with CPI scores, we listed the 14 highly corrupt countries – those that have a CPI score of less than 20. Population data came from the World Bank.

Among Transparency International’s 14 countries at the bottom of its 2022 index, seven are located in the vast sub-Saharan region of Africa, three are in the Middle East, and three in the Americas. Turkmenistan and North Korea fill out the list. 

Take, for example, Turkmenistan, the most authoritarian of the former Soviet states, where police officers and customs officials frequently solicit bribes, and the construction industry operates on a pay-to-play basis. Some major concerns include a rigged election orchestrated by the government last year and the former president’s nephew receiving a fake $25.7 million food-import contract. 

This Central Asian nation of 6.3 million people is suffering from endemic administrative and governmental corruption, but it is not the worst offender – even among countries not embroiled in armed conflict, like Syria and Somalia.

Here are the most corrupt countries in the world.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

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