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WORK TO DO: Without changes to reduce corruption in Latvia’s judiciary, the future will be difficult, says Kristaps Petermanis.
RIGA - The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is out, with its rating of 176 countries on the openness to do business and the transparency of the public sector.
Once again, Denmark was rated number one for 2012 as the least corrupt country in the world, with Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia all tied for last place as the most corrupt.
The CPI assesses and rates from zero to 100, where zero means total corruption in the country, and 100 marks very transparent countries. Denmark and Finland both tied with a 90 rating, and Afghanistan, North Korea, and Somalia with 7 as the most corrupt.
If you place any value in such a report, the three Baltic States are in the top third of the least corrupt countries in the world. Estonia was ranked 32, Lithuanian 48 and Latvia 54 out of 176.
However, as an index compared to all former Soviet countries, the three Baltic States are far ahead of the old USSR, with Russia ranked 133. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan were all tied at 170.
Transparency International first launched the CPI in 1995 and has been credited with putting the issue of corruption on the international policy agenda. Each year Transparency International scores countries on how corrupt their public sectors are seen. The goal of TI is to send a message to all governments in hopes of taking notice and forcing them to act in the best interests of the population.
There are two numbers ratings tied to their report for each country. The overall ‘rank’ of each country, from least to most corrupt, and an individual rating or ‘score,’ suggesting a percentage out of 100. The lower the rank the better, and the higher the score, the better.
Says Transparency International about the CPI, “The index does capture the informed views of analysts, businesspeople and experts in countries around the world.”
Latvia has work to do
Ranked in last place among the Baltic States, Latvia’s CPI index for 2012 was a 49 out of 100. Latvia received the same placement rating in 2011. Latvia is placed 54 out of 176 for 2012 for its level of corruption. Latvia’s CPI rating has declined significantly since 2008 and is “now at a critical level,” according to Delna – Society for Transparency International. “Without improvements to reduce corruption in the judiciary, changes “will be difficult,” says Kristaps Petermanis, Delna’s director.
“Court rulings on corruption cases are often inconsistent, and not enough is being done in Latvia to stymie corruption,” said Petermanis. “We have to conclude that at least some judges, including Supreme Court justices, do not understand the degrading effect that corruption has in the long term,” he concluded.
Transparency International has submitted to the government a list of ten steps that should be taken to fight corruption, including reforms to the rule of law and in judicial affairs.
When asked to respond to the recent Transparency International report regarding Latvia, the new U.S. Ambassador to Latvia, Mark Pekala told TBT, “Delna’s recently released CPI is cause for concern. I have spent most of my career working in and with this region of the world, and I have seen the progress made in a single generation. Latvia has reasons to be proud, but vigilance against corruption will be crucial to a bright future.”
Looking south, Lithuania was ranked 48 out of 176 countries surveyed. Transparency International gathers its data in the following way for all countries. It draws on corruption-related data from experts and business surveys carried out by a variety of independent and reputable institutions. Like Latvia, Lithuania also had a CPI rating of 49 out of 100.
Of the three Baltic States, Estonia is considered the least corrupt, but certainly not on a level with Baltic neighbors Finland, Sweden and Norway, with their ratings of 1 (tied with Denmark), 4 and 7, respectively.
Estonia ranking of 32 out of 176 is complemented by its CPI rank of 64.
Some of Estonia’s 2012 study of anti-corruption activity was carried out by The Heritage Foundation, and what the study found was that “Estonia upheld all four pillars of economic freedom relatively well, with the rule of law strongly enforced by an independent and efficient judicial system. However, respect for the principle of limited government has eroded as government spending has risen as a share of GNP. Public finance management could be enhanced through clearer coordination between central and local governments as well as better targeting of social benefits.”
The three Baltic States each have their our distinct and unique attributes. There are also historical, cultural and language differences to consider. What the Corruption Perception Index suggests for Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia is that they have come a long way since the breakup of the Soviet Union, but they still have a long way to go to be on a level like the neighbors to the West – Europe.