Philippines' corruption score worsens

Posted at 03/30/2011 7:55 AM | Updated as of 03/30/2011 7:24 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines continues to be viewed as having a serious corruption problem, with its overall score in a regional survey worsening even though it did not slip in a ranking of 16 economies.

On a scale of one to 10 -- with 10 being the worst -- the country garnered a score of 8.9, poorer than 2010’s 8.25, in Hong Kong-based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy, Ltd.’s (PERC) latest Asian Intelligence report.

Similar dips for Cambodia (9.27 from 8.30) and Indonesia (9.25 from 9.07), however, allowed the Philippines to stay in third place.

Seen as the least corrupt was Singapore with a score of 0.37, followed by Hong Kong (1.10) and Australia (1.39).

The Asian average, which excludes the grades of Australia and the United States, worsened to 6.08 from 5.90 in 2011.

Faring little better after the Philippines were India (8.67), Vietnam (8.30), China (7.93) and Thailand (7.55).
Rounding out the list with scores superior to the regional average were South Korea (5.90), Malaysia (5.70), Taiwan (5.65), Macau (4.68), the US (2.39) and Japan (1.90).

PERC, which polled respondents on their views on political, institutional and private sector corruption, said the magnitude of the Philippines’ problem was "definitely not so large that it has many cross-border implications".

Corruption, however, was said to have taken a large toll.

"The Philippines is, perhaps, the Asian country that has been hurt most by corruption," PERC said in the report.

"If one looked at the end of World War II as the starting point for modern Asia, the Philippines today should be the richest economy on a per capita basis in Asia and a leader in many fields...," it added.

The latest survey put the country fourth in terms of political corruption with a rating of 8.27. Civil servants at the city level were deemed most corrupt (8.89), followed by city and other-local level political leaders (8.51), civil servants at the national level (8.10) and national-level leaders (7.57).

In terms of institutional corruption, the country was the third-worst with a score of 8.50. The military had the worst grade (9.25), followed by the tax bureau (8.97) and the police (8.89). The institution viewed as the least corrupt was the stock market, which had a 6.57 score.

With a grade of 8.50, meanwhile, the Philippines was tied in third place with Cambodia in terms of private sector corruption.

Asked as to how effective the system was in terms of prosecuting and punishing individuals involved in corruption, respondents scored the country a 9.75. The government’s seriousness in addressing the problem was scored a slightly less worse 8.10.

Filipinos were seen as very tolerant of corruption, with a score of 9.21.

Bribery among private sector parties was rated an 8.50 and the difficulty in dealing with corruption received an 8.25.

Asked to what extent corruption detracted from the attractiveness of the overall business environment, respondents gave the country an 8.9.

A significantly better score of 6.70 was given with respect to how easy was it to build an internal culture in an organization to ensure that standards are met.

This latest survey -- conducted from November 2010 to February 2011 -- covered 1,725 middle and senior expatriate business executives working in Asia, the US and Australia. The expatriates were asked to provide scores only for the country where they were working and their country of origin.

Sought for comment, a Palace official said the Philippines had at least maintained gains against corruption.
"The ranking of the Philippines shows that we have maintained the improvement from the time in 2007-2008 when we were ranked as the most corrupt in our region," Undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office said.

As for the military being perceived most corrupt, he blamed recent highly-publicized Congress probes.
"[It] shows that the expat business community has attentively been following the investigations...," Mr. Quezon said.

He gave assurances that the government would continue working to eradicate corruption.

"This (the PERC survey) can be a tool and it will be taken seriously... it shows us that we have to recover that sense of optimism," Mr. Quezon said.