Two days after taking over the presidency of G20, with a responsibility to implement an anti-corruption action plan, Turkey has suffered one of the biggest slumps in Transparency International’s the latest edition of Corruption Perceptions Index .
Measuring how people feel about the level of corruption among their public officials, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index scores 175 countries from zero to 100. Ranking 100 is considered very clean and zero is highly corrupt.
This year, once again, Denmark is the least corrupt country in the world, followed by New Zealand, Finland, Sweden and Norway. The United Kingdom scored 14 and the United States 17.
Somalia and North Korea jointly shared the last place with a score of 8. Iraq and Afghanistan have remained in the bottom ten.
With a score of 45 out of 100, Turkey is in 64th place.
In its report, Transparency International said that as a result of the recent investigations into bribery and corruption charges against people considered close to the government, the general perception of corruption in Turkey has increased substantially.
The report added:
“Images of gold bars and millions of dollars stuffed in shoeboxes, coupled with incriminating videos, the firing or resignation of government ministers, multiple arrests and sadly, a number of suicides, topped the list of stories this year involving endemic corruption at the highest levels of Turkey’s business and government.”
Transparency International highlighted government’s response to corruption allegations as “a crackdown on political enemies as well as thousands of police officers, prosecutors and regulators who were sacked or “reassigned”, and not the corrupt. “ The mining tragedy in Soma in May was listed as an incident “directly related to corrupt practices”. Arrests and persecution of journalists were also mentioned.
Transparency chairman Jose Ugaz, in a statement accompanying the latest edition of the Corruption Perceptions Index said: “Fast-growing economies whose governments refuse to be transparent and tolerate corruption create a culture of impunity in which corruption thrives“.
Transparency International’s damning conclusions on Turkey are likely to be dismissed by the authorities as another example of “Turkey and Muslim hating foreigners trying to undermine the country’s impressive growth”. However, it is worth remembering that the Corruption Perception Index is put together using surveys from other respected international bodies such as the World Bank, Economist Intelligence Unit and regional development banks.
The World Bank itself puts the amount that goes to bribes in one year up to $1 trillion. This is one fifth of the world’s gross national income.
A day before Transparency, The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its first Foreign Bribery Report in Paris. It measured the crime of transnational corruption on the basis of data from the 427 foreign bribery enforcement actions concluded since the entry into force of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 1999.
Describing Turkey as a “a significant and geopolitically critical economy”, the OECD said that Turkish companies, like those from many others, “operated in corruption-prone sectors and countries and in spite of this, only 10 allegations have come to the attention of Turkish authorities since foreign bribery became an offence in Turkey in 2003”, adding: “Turkey has opened investigations into only 6 of these allegations, 3 of which were closed. Turkey’s level of enforcement of its foreign bribery laws – with just a single prosecution leading to an acquittal in 11 years – is considerably low.”
The OECD Working Group on Bribery recommended that efforts to proactively detect and investigate foreign bribery allegations should be significantly increased; the independence of prosecutors should be maintained and it should be ensured that concerns of a political nature do not affect foreign bribery investigations and prosecutions.
For a country heavily reliant on foreign capital inflows as Turkey is, these conclusions should raise serious concerns. However, a recent report titled “Corruption from the Perspective of Businesspeople: Perceptions and Recommendations,” by the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) showed that the majority of Turkish businesspeople, while believing corruption will increase, did not see it as a top problem.
As TÜSİAD president Haluk Dinçer pointed out in his introduction of the report “The biggest problem for the world is internalizing corruption as a fact of life and not being worried about it, then abandoning the fight against corruption”.
With a media ban on the coverage of the parliamentary investigation of corruption and journalists already being convicted to prison terms for reporting the December 17 corruption probe, those of us espousing a country with the rule of law and free of corruption do not stand much chance in Turkey.
By admitting corruption allegations were not totally baseless, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s chief adviser, Etyen Mahçupyan last week said that AK Party voters made a “rational decision” in re-electing the ruling party because they preferred corruption to a coup.
This is more than internalizing. It is making corruption an accepted –or even desirable – way of life in Mr Erdoğan’s “New Turkey”.
This post is also available in: Turkish