Country remains stagnant on Transparency’s index

Public perceptions of corruption here have not changed much, according to the Transparency International index released Tuesday.

“For the more cynical among us, this is a good sign as there is always the possibility of worsening,” said the organization in commenting on all of the Americas. “But the reality is that stagnation is not good news. Each year that passes without things improving, is a lost year for the process of strengthening state institutions and the improvement of the quality of life of people.

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Costa Rica scored 54 out of 100 points. That put it in 47th place among 175 nations. That is about the same score and ranking that the country has enjoyed for the last three years.

That static result is surprising because there have been several notable corruption cases in the last year, including a lawmaker accused of taking bribes and a broad investigation of Ruta 1856, the new roadway built along the country’s northern border.

The index is compiled from a number of public opinion surveys. In the Americas, Costa Rica was only exceeded by Chile,which scored 73 points for 21st place and tied with Uruguay.

Costa Rica’s neighbors were seen by residents as having far more corruption. Panamá scored 37 points for 94th place tied with Colombia. Nicaragua scored 28 points for 133rd place.

In the basement in the Americas was Venezuela with 19 points and 161st place along with Haiti and Yemen.

“Although there is no single answer for all countries, it seems that in general those who are traditionally seen as the bad or the ugly of the story – politicians, public officials, and some business people who deal illegally with them – continue to follow their usual path,” said Transparency of the Americas.

Officials perform some specific anti-corruption reforms to show that they are doing something against corruption, but not advancing on all key issues, the organization said, adding that this has led to an increase in the number of countries that have adopted access to information laws, improved their public procurement systems or joined international initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership. These are all good steps, however, big corruption schemes that involve individuals at the highest level of power and lack of punishment of the corrupt continue to prevail in the Americas, Transparency said.

“This is well exemplified by Brazil (score of 43,
on a scale from 0 to 100 where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 very clean) and Mexico (35),” said the organization. “The case of Petrobras in Brazil, where corrupt officials and their private sector cronies siphoned billions of dollars from the country’s largest company into political parties’ coffers and private hands, and the presumed killing of more than 40 students in Iguala, Mexico, where it became evident that corruption allows criminal gangs to capture public institutions are just recent examples that serve as a reminder of the lack of significant progress in the region.”

The Scandinavian countries and New Zealand come out on top in the 2014 tally, according to wire service reports. For the third year in a row, Denmark is the number one country. These nations have tough laws and regulations on transparency, both in government and commerce.

The United States came in tied for 17th from the top, with a score of 74 out of 100. But that puts the United States behind Canada (10th), Germany (12th), Britain (14th) and Japan (15th), the wire services noted.  The U.S., ranked 19th last year, shares 17th place with Ireland, Barbados, and Hong Kong.

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