According to a recent survey by Hong Kong-based risk consultancy, the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (Perc), Singapore tops the ranking of 13 Asian economies for being the least corrupt country in the region.
In total, Perc polled 1,476 expatriate business executives in 13 countries and territories across the region between January and February last year.
Singapore leads second-placed Hong Kong and third-placed Japan, while the Philippines was deemed the most corrupt economy at 9.40, followed by Thailand and Indonesia, which tied for second-last place at 8.03.
On the Philippines, the Perc report noted that "it is bad and has been bad all along. People are just growing tired of the inaction and insincerity of leading officials when they promise to fight corruption." In response, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo told Business News Asia magazine that Perc worked on “old data,” and that their “credit ratings are fine.”
On Thailand, Perc believed “there is no reason to be confident that [the military junta’s] behaviour will be any cleaner…than the government it ousted." Elsewhere on Indonesia, Perc said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's campaign to crack down on corruption has "produced some positive results, but he is still swimming against the current".
The latest Perc survey corresponds well with an earlier National Integrity System (NIS) study conducted by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) in December last year. The study, commissioned by Transparency International, confirmed Perc’s ranking of Singapore as the least corrupt country in the region.
According to lead author Simon Tay, chairman of SIIA, Singapore’s consistent record in and model of anti-corruption observes a different articulation from other countries and institutions. The concept of national integrity is internalised and embedded in the country’s laws, governance and administrative processes.
The study also related that many of the government’s efforts are made specifically for anti-corruption measures, involving many different agencies and striving not just to investigate and punish but also to inculcate values through training, publicity and other measures. These efforts are also allied to concepts of good governance, efficiency and rationality and providing a high quality of service to the citizens and residents of Singapore, as factors to give Singapore a competitive economic advantage and an ethos of meritocracy and fairness.
Despite Singapore’s consistently high ranking however, Perc cautioned that the country is “increasingly vulnerable to corruption in other countries” as its “cross-border” nature will hinder policing efforts. Perc also cited ongoing problems that Temasek has with Shin Corp following Thailand’s military coup, to demonstrate how corruption scandals in other countries can have a heavy monetary cost for Singapore.
Finally, Perc also highlighted Singapore’s other problem with corruption which takes the form of foreign individuals profiting from corruption elsewhere in Asia and parking their ill-gotten gains in the country. “Many wealthy Indonesians, for example, have invested heavily in Singapore real estate and are using Singapore's growing private banking industry to protect and invest their assets,” Perc reported. Such a scenario could strain Singapore's relations with its neighbours when they try to recover the assets or seek the extradition of their nationals.
NEWS Brief - SIIA launches study on Singapore’s National Integrity System (9 December 2006)
Philippines slams corruption index, but Indonesia happy (Channel News Asia, 13 March 2007)
Singapore is Asia's cleanest economy (AFP/TODAY, 14 March 2007)
S'pore keeps status as least corrupt in Asia (The Straits Times, 14 March 2007)