The UAE is the least corrupt nation in the Arab world, according to a report from Transparency International.
The UAE was ranked 25th out of 175 countries in the group’s perception of corruption list – the highest result in the Middle East and above France, Portugal, Poland, and Spain – showing that even developed European nations are not immune to graft.
The UAE advanced one place in the index, from 26th to 25th. But there is more work to be done, the group said.
“The UAE has scored highest among the Arab countries but it still has a long way to go,” said Kinda Hattar, the regional coordinator at Transparency International.
“In terms of national laws the UAE lacks a lot of legislation up to international standards,” Ms Hattar said. “There are limited access to information laws, no protection for whistleblowers, public officials are granted impunity and civil society is very weak. There’s also a lack of transparency in public sector procurement processes,” she said.
“In Gulf countries there have been very few initiatives to institutionalise anti-corruption practices – this is vital to prevent corruption” she added. “Countries need anti-corruption commissions that are independent, non-politicised, and which have substantial resources.”
A UAE Federal anti-corruption authority is in the works, however, with a draft law considered in 2003 that would create a corruption ombudsman based in Abu Dhabi.
The report singled out Iraq and Libya as illustrations of how a chaotic security situation can exacerbate corruption.
“Iraq and Libya tell a story of a region in turmoil plagued with geopolitical insecurity, rampant corruption and governments unwilling or unable to seriously make a clean break with their cronyism,” wrote Ghada Zughayar, the director for the Middle East and North Africa at Transparency International, in a blog post.
A recent Iraqi corruption investigation showed that 50,000 “ghost soldiers” were on the payrolls of the Iraqi army – fictitious names whose salaries went to senior officers, the prime minister, Haider Al Abadi said this week.
“Political corruption is the main challenge in the region. Ruling elites have concentrated power with small groups blurring the distinction of separation of powers, which spill into decision-making processes that affect millions of citizens,” Ms Zughayar wrote.
“Political elites in the region have systematically abused their authority and operate with often startling levels of impunity.
“They have safeguarded their personal interests through undue influence and networks of patronage.”
The UAE, however, also scores highly on the Global Competitiveness Index, which measures the ease of doing business in a country. In September, the country was ranked 12th globally, also earning the highest position in the Middle East.
The Transparency International report does not measure actual corruption but perceptions of corruption. It is based on expert opinion from a range of non-governmental organisations, think tanks, and research firms, including the Economist Intelligence Unit and the World Bank.
“The data sources used to compile the index include questions relating to the abuse of public power and focus on: bribery of public officials; kickbacks in public procurement; embezzlement of public funds; and the strength and effectiveness of public sector anti-corruption efforts,” the report said.
“The index score, therefore, provides a reflection on the general state of corruption as faced by ordinary people, as well as businesses in a country.”
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