We humans absolutely ruin every chance to be great that we have, don’t we? We build great nations capable of remarkable advances, and then completely blow it all on bribery and corruption. The temptation must be brutal. How can you continue to monitor the health of your society when there’s a little devil tapping on your shoulder?
But there’s hope! It’s not always bleak in this world of ours. There are countries where leaders ARE dedicated to doing the right thing, and do not give up their morals at the first whiff of personal gain. Here are the top countries in the world that believe in the greater good. (In case you’re wondering, the United States came in at #18 in the “least corrupt” category; not too shabby, America!)
As we continue down this list, you’ll notice a trend of places in the great white north, which means that it’s probably simply too cold in the upper Northern Hemisphere to be super corrupt. If there is a weakness in the country, it seems to exist somewhere in the political field, with charges of nepotism and other unethical relationships taking place. Overall, since the global financial crisis of 2008, Iceland’s boat of morality has taken on a bit of water. Still, to occupy the number ten place on this list, you’re still doing better than most.
Newish Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir has noticed this slip in integrity, and seems to be addressing all of these issues that have cropped up in the last decade. That’s why she is bringing together the two major conservative parties in Iceland (Jakobsdottir is quite liberal) that had hands in recent scandals and is forming a coalition to restore faith in the political system and to hold those embroiled in scandals accountable. Whether it works to raise Iceland up in the rankings remains to be seen, but it’s definitely a bold new approach in Iceland that maybe other countries could take note of: having both sides actually work together, instead of acting like petulant children.
With its neighbor New Zealand (spoiler!) ranking so high on this list, it’s nice to see that Australia has also followed suit, behaving by proxy in a way. The country has been falling in the rankings a bit in the last few years, however, even though the country has a pretty positive record of global and domestic activity to curb corruption.
Media outlets, unions, and the political parties of Australia are viewed as the areas where the country needs the most work in stemming the tide of corruption. But that’s based on polling the people of Australia, and may not represent the actual facts; in truth, worldwide faith in those establishments has been on a downward trend in the last decade or two.
In actuality, and especially in relativity to most other countries in the world, regulations are by and large transparent and legitimate, the independent judiciary system is mostly just, and bribery among public services is rare. If anyone is up to funny business, it’s the police: one case in the state of Victoria involved officers participating in drug trafficking, and border officers were accused to assisting in drug movement in another.
At this point on the list, we find that while these countries are in good shape mostly, there are more and more cracks appearing. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not quite like living in a third world country where money changes hands illegally to make almost anything happen. But we’re finding where the work needs to be done.
Germany still has a very strong level of integrity across the board, generally speaking. Foreign bribery has been a major facet of corruption that the German government has taken aim at, ramping up their efforts to fight those kinds of practices. Even the German president wasn’t immune from efforts to fight corruption: in 2012, President Christian Wulff was accused of taking part in a shady home loan, and was basically removed from office.
The relationships between the government and the very-important car manufacturers in Germany is something that anti-corruption officials will need to watch very closely as well. The Volkswagen scandal of recent years brought to light some need to police car emissions and the ways that the government hasn’t gone far enough to bring their country’s legendary carmakers into the fold, ethically speaking.
7. United Kingdom
The country as a whole places great importance on the high esteem and ethical standards of their public services, so they must put their money where their mouths are to make it onto this list. And the tenure of Prime Minister Theresa May has boosted the country’s ranking even more, especially with the adopting of a legitimate Anti-Corruption Strategy. To that end, the National Crime Agency was founded in the UK in 2013, with a special interest in decreasing organized crime and its tentacles that travel everywhere from human trafficking to cyber crime. Anti-corruption task forces were absorbed into that agency, drawing ire from many who probably were doing corrupty things.
The Brexit fiasco, which involved the UK leaving the European Union, probably doesn’t bode well for this country remaining on this list, however. Because of leaving the coziness and warmth of the European Trade Union, the UK will probably be doing more business with countries on the other end of the corruption spectrum.
Still, one branch of government that is committed to fighting corruption, the extremely English-named Serious Fraud Office, has been absolutely crushing it when it comes to exposing corrupt acts in business by everyone from Guinness to a multi-billion dollar Barclay’s bank scandal.
Continuing the trend of “northern European countries that just kind of have their stuff together,” the Netherlands holds the number 6 spot due to strong existing social structures like independent court systems, business codes of conduct, and an overall culture of trust. Doesn’t that sound nice?
Some corruption tried to rear its ugly head in the police departments in the country, but the government quickly got involved to study and try to shut down any wrongdoings. Another case emerged involving Swedish telecom giant Telia and Netherlands government officials. Bribes were taken, and accounting books were cooked. The Netherland slapped the Rotterdam-based subsidiaries of the company to the tune of $274 million. In other words, they’re not fooling around.
Basically, the country as a whole has measures in place to combat the first signs of corruption in their systems, and they monitor them frequently, and punish brutally when it happens.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone, since Canada’s always been that really cool neighbor to the north of the U.S. There are very clear regulations for organizations wishing to do business in Canada, and the court systems are clean and efficient. The police are among the most reliable in the entire world. It’s the reason why Canada is the highest-ranking country in all of the Americas, North and South.
But corruption is trying to once again gain traction in Canada. Bribery is also still a problem. So, how to tackle this? Canada’s Access to Information Act has been woefully inept, and the government has starting investigating further, seeking ways that transparency country-wide can be more achievable. Also, in 2006, Canada launched the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, which gives those looking so expose wrongdoing in the government a confidential process to tell their stories. Let’s hope that living upstairs from America doesn’t let any more bad habits rub off on them.
Singapore might be one of those small countries that you never exactly know where in the world it’s located (hint: it’s near Malaysia, south of Vietnam), but it’s making quite a name for itself, and is a model country for curbing corruption, especially in an area of the world that is fraught with it. Singapore is rather small, with a population of just over 5 million people, and that could be why corruption cases are easier to uncover and to enforce, but that’s not the whole story.
A little-talked about reason for fewer instances of corruption is the nature of the country of Singapore itself. The fact that it carried over a lot of ideas when it was under colonial rule from Great Britain led to inherent ways of fighting corruption. There was clear meritocracy in promoting civil servants, and corruption itself was an offense all the way back in 1871, so all these ideas of curbing corruption were baked into Singapore right from the start. It’s also one thing to be corrupt in the government, but still get away with it in the private sector. Singapore has addressed that as well, issuing swift and stern punishment in a high-profile shipping inspection case, an industry that is obviously important with Singapore’s geographical location.
Scandinavia has a pretty sterling record when it comes to cleanliness, in a moral way. But not too far away, a Nordic country has elevated itself into that kind of rare company. Maybe it’s something in that Baltic water.
A solid score of 85 shines a positive light upon the Finnish people. Not bad considering that 6 billion people worldwide live in a country that’s deemed to be more corrupt than not.
Finland’s judicial system is of particular note. There’s hardly ever any cases of citizens making payments to judges, and businesses in the country have a huge rate of trust in their court systems. The judges themselves are very confident in their work, reporting very little pressure, and faith that they are promoted based on merit rather than extraneous factors.
Another reason for very sparse corruption is that the country itself has a genuine freeness when it comes to openness and respect for free media and journalism. Access to information is extremely important and constitutionally guaranteed.
Holding a top-4 spot in the lowest-corrupted-countries rankings since 1995, Denmark is on a winning streak of overall morality that seems to be a distinctly-Scandinavian trait. Bribes between public officials for services or benefits are virtually nonexistent, which is almost abnormally wholesome. In a comprehensive study of corruption worldwide, countries were assessed and given a score between 0 and 100. The worldwide average was a shameful 43, indicating systemic corruption on almost every level.
Denmark, however, is one of the good boys in the world’s classroom; they have been at a 90 or higher for several years running. Achieving that takes a whole lot of diligence, which Denmark has taken on by ratifying all sorts of international anti-corruption initiatives. Some of those even go so far as to deny foreign officials visiting Denmark any kinds of gifts, extravagant meals, travel expenses, etc., that could sway them in any way. And any foreign companies that engage in any kind of bribery are treated just as if they were on Danish soil. These guys mean business.
1. New Zealand
A perennial leader in ethics, New Zealand prides itself on transparency in business and politics, as well as in the judicial system. Perhaps the possibility of a 14-year jail sentence for bribery and such contributes to that. Public officials are also prohibited from accepting gifts, which undoubtedly helps with dipping into the proverbial cookie jar for fear of being exposed.
The police systems are also on the up-and-up, for the most part. There’s independent organizations in place to report and to expose police corruption, when it does occur. Starting a business is shockingly easy in New Zealand, and can be accomplished as quickly as half a day, thanks to a transparent regulatory system and the ease of foreign investing and transactions. There’s also legislation directly aimed at corruption due to organized crime and its footholds in money laundering, bribery and drugs: the penalties are stiff, to say the least.