The perception of corruption in Malaysia hit its worst point over the last five years, based on a survey done by Transparency International (TI). The newly released Corruption Perception Index (CPI) put Malaysia at number 62 out of the 180 countries ranked, slipping seven spots from last year’s ranking.
Every year, Transparency International, a global anti-corruption coalition, releases the Corruption Perception Index. This annual survey takes into account the perceived corruption of 180 countries in the world. Taking several measures into account (see details below), each country is ranked between 0 and 100 – where 0 means a country is highly corrupt and 100 means it’s very clean. The index makes use of surveys done by business people from around the world, including experts in living and risk analysis and the general public working in the respective countries.
For 2017, Malaysia scored 47 out of 100, a score shared by Cuba. While the score itself only reflected a two-point drop – Malaysia scored a 49 in 2016’s CPI – it’s still unquestionably a move in the wrong direction, and when taken in conjunction with numerous other countries improving their own CPI scores, resulted in a significant seven-point drop in the index’s ranking.
Malaysia’s performance in both score and ranking stands in stark contrast to neighbouring Singapore, which took the CPI’s 6th-place spot with an impressive score of 84, placing it among the least corrupt countries in the world, and an improvement from its 7th-place 2016 ranking. One wonders how two neighbouring countries with so much shared heritage and history could be so dramatically different when it comes to corruption. Indeed, Singapore stands head and shoulders above virtually all its ASEAN neighbours, with a CPI score that’s nearly double that of Malaysia and exactly four times higher than ASEAN’s lowest scorer, Cambodia.
According to the press statement by Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M), President Dato’ Akhbar Satar attributed the decreased score to the issues surrounding 1MDB and the RM2.6 billion ‘donation,’ a major international scandal in which Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been the centre of attention.
Other notable cases mentioned include the FELDA and Sabah Water scandals, on top of the political climate in the country. The most recent scandal was of the conviction of a whistleblower on the NFC (National Feedlot Corporation) scandal case, despite whistleblower protections supposedly being in place. In this case, it was determined that the government funded the corporation and those involved were acquitted and discharged, which is an example of how the public, investors, and the business community are losing faith in our system, said Akhbar.
“However, if not [for] the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission’s (MACC’s) aggressiveness in conducting investigations and making arrests to deter corruption in the country, the ranking could have been further eroded,” he added.
Despite it not being as grim as it could have been without the MACC’s efforts, Malaysia’s plunge from 2016 to 2017 is nevertheless the country’s steepest year-to-year drop in the history of the CPI. Akhbar also noted that the organisation was told of the government’s target to reach the CPI’s 30th spot by 2020, which seems far less achievable now than it was before.
“Our downward trend puts us further from the target,” Akhbar said. “This should be our ‘wake-up call,’ but is the government listening or will this deplorable ranking be explained just like so many other warning signs?”