Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Transparency International's index, released Wednesday, warned that populist governments can make corruption worse and rated Somalia the world's biggest offender.
The Berlin-based advocacy group's annual "Corruption Perceptions Index" lists 176 countries according to perceived corruption in government, on a zero-to-100 scale, with zero being the worst. The world's worst, in order, are Somalia, with a score of 10, and South Sudan with 11, followed by North Korea, Syria and Yemen. Somalia has placed last in the annual index for the past 10 years.
The best are Denmark and New Zealand each with a score of 90, followed by Finland, Sweden and Switzerland. The United States placed 18th on the list with a score of 74.
The non-profit organization said low-ranking countries typically feature untrustworthy police and court systems, misappropriated funding that leads to a lack of basic services, ignored anti-corruption laws and numerous examples of extortion against citizens. It added that many countries' populations look to populist leaders who promise to combat corruption, but do nothing about it once in power.
"In countries with populist or autocratic leaders, we often see democracies in decline and a disturbing pattern of attempts to crack down on civil society, limit press freedom, and weaken the independence of the judiciary. Instead of tackling crony capitalism, those leaders usually install even worse forms of corrupt systems. In too many countries, people are deprived of their most basic needs and go to bed hungry every night because of corruption, while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity," Transparency International chairman Jose Ugaz said.
The report recommends "deep-rooted systemic reforms" to address imbalances of power, more public disclosure regarding corporate ownership and sanctions against those engaged in money laundering actions which move money across borders.