Corruption — or even the perception of corruption — can do a lot to hurt a country's ability to compete on the global stage. People need to trust a government in order for it to work.
According to the new Corruption Perceptions Index, an annual measure released by Transparency International, nobody's perfect. But some countries are better than others. Take a look:
Here's the CPI's list of least corrupt countries:
And the most corrupt countries:
The methodology: Transparency International measures corruption perception by polling experts from different parts of the world. Those results are then worked into a 0 to 100 scale for comparison.
"A poor score is likely a sign of widespread bribery, lack of punishment for corruption and public institutions that don't respond to citizens' needs," the group says. "Not one single country gets a perfect score and more than two-thirds score below 50."
The U.S. came in 17th, with a score of 74, tying it with Barbados, Hong Kong and Ireland. The average score is a 43.
What it means: It's far from a perfect measurement — it's a study of perception of corruption rather than corruption itself, which is very hard to witness and quantify. Transparency International can't say "here's the most corrupt country," so it has to settle for "here's what people think is the most corrupt country."
But, the group argues, there's value in just looking at perception. Residents, businesses and other countries are much more wary of dealing with a regime that is seen as corrupt, which is why you would probably approach a business opportunity in Denmark differently than one in North Korea (among other reasons).
Transparency International offers some solutions, mainly calling on financial heavyweights and the generally better-off countries in the G20 to hold corrupt governments accountable, but it's likely not a problem that's going away anytime soon.