ASEAN connection

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THE Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) just recently released the annual survey results of the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2009. How do members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) fare in their performance graphs for this year?

Singapore continues to maintain its rank as the only Southeast Asian country to be part of the top 10 least corrupt countries in the world. With a score of 9.2, it is the 3rd least corrupt among 180 countries in this year's CPI survey, next only to Denmark (9.4) and New Zealand (9.3).

Beside Singapore, three other countries are maintaining their 2008 CPI scores in the 2009 survey: Laos (2.0); Vietnam (2.7); and Timor Leste (2.2). Laos' over-all performance graph has revealed a drastic drop since its participation in 2005 with a CPI of 3.3.

Malaysia is experiencing a sharp drop in its CPI score of 4.5 in 2009 from a high 5.1 in 2008. For a long time, Malaysia is enjoying consistent fair ratings in CPI performance (5.0 and above), but this year's survey threatens the country's unassailable status. Its ranking is the lowest in the history of the country's anticorruption levels in 15 years. More than 70% of the Malaysian population have grown dissatisfied with the government's performance in curbing public sector corruption.

Thailand is experiencing only a slight deterioration with its 3.4 CPI score in 2009 from 3.5 in 2008. The survey turnout is somewhat unexpected for many anticorruption researchers and observers given Thailand's domestic troubles involving a prominent member of the Royal Family and the political turmoil in the Parliament (change of prime ministers in less than a year).

Experiencing slight improvements (1 to 2 points variances) are the Philippines (2.4 in 2009 from 2.3 in 2008); Indonesia (2.8 in 2009 from 2.6 in 2008); and Myanmar (1.4 in 2009 from 1.3 in 2008).

With the lowest CPI score, Myanmar (1.4) nevertheless appears as the most corrupt country in Southeast Asia, followed by Laos (2.0), Timor Leste (2.2), the Philippines (2.4), and then Indonesia (2.8).

Both the Philippines and Indonesia used to compete for the rank of the most corrupt in Southeast Asia but for these past two to three years, both have also shown steady rise, though still volatile, in their CPI performance.

Indonesia's improvements can be attributed to President Susilo Yudhoyono's unprecedented efforts to crack down on government corruption.

For its part, the Philippine's slight improvement is attributable to the Filipino people's resilience and vibrant broad-based anticorruption initiatives in the private sector despite the many unresolved national scandals in government.

Over-all, Southeast Asian countries have maintained their momentum in their CPI performance graphs (+/- 1 to 2 points variances only) with the striking exception of Malaysia (6-point variance).