Fall in corruption index: Will the government wake up?

Bangladesh's position in the corruption index is hovering at the same place. It advances one rank in one year, then slips one step in the other. Sometimes this decline is greater than the previous progress. If we count from 2019, we have moved from 14th place to 12th place.

According to the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index of the Berlin-based global organisation Transparency International (TI), Bangladesh ranks 12th among 180 countries in the list of corrupt countries. Bangladesh ranked 13th the previous year. In the list of the least corrupt countries, Bangladesh's position has dropped one step to 147th out of 180 countries, from 146th last year. Bangladesh ranks 12th in the 2020 index of corrupt countries which is 2 spots up from its previous 14th position.

In defining corruption, TI takes different things into account including abuse of government power for personal gain. The fact that this abuse of power has become rampant in Bangladesh does not require validity from TI or any other agency. It is evident how abuse of government power is increasing gradually. We are behind all South Asian countries except Afghanistan as corruption in the country has multiplied.

India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan are above Bangladesh. This is not at all comforting for a government that has declared zero tolerance against corruption. The concern is that the government does not even consider the need to verify the allegations of corruption revealed by the media or in the research of private organisations, rather rejects these outright.

Irony is, the current ruling party scorned by the data now weaponises the information by these organisations against the opponents while being in the opposition party. This applies to both those who are in power now and those who were in power in the past. According to the report of TI, Bangladesh topped in the corruption index five times. Four times during the BNP tenure, once during the Awami League term. Currently Bangladesh is not in the top but is close to it. Unless this political culture of renunciation ends, the prevalence of corruption will never stop.

TI said there is zero tolerance against corruption from the top level of the government but there is no strategic plan to implement it against corruption. Although petty corrupts are punished in some cases, the big fish remain out of reach due to loopholes in the law or patronization from the ruling party.

TIB executive director Iftekharuzzaman justifiably said an unfavourable and fearful environment has been created for those including media who would publish the information of corruptions. On the other hand the people with corruption allegation are being promoted and awarded. There is nothing to be astonished in slump of country’s position in corruption index when this becomes the government’s policy.

A commissioner of Anti-Corruption Commission, the anti-graft watchdog in the country, told Prothom Alo, “I’m not denying the report TI gave on corruption.” This is true that ACC alone cannot stop corruption; there should be political will for this.

If the government policymakers take stern steps against the corrupt people instead of rejecting the TI report, then it is possible to achieve improvement in the corruption index. But Bangladesh may well be the champion in corruption again if they go on denying the situation.