India slipped on the corruption perceptions index (CPI) for 2023 to 93 as against 85 it scored for 2022, a Transparency International report released on Tuesday revealed as it said that fluctuation in two years was low preventing any conclusion on significant change.

The index prepared by Transparency International ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption drawn from experts and business people. On a scale of 0 to 100 on which countries are judged, 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

“India (39) shows score fluctuations small enough that no firm conclusions can be drawn on any significant change. However, ahead of the elections, India sees further narrowing of civic space, including through the passage of a (telecommunication) bill that could be a ‘grave threat’ to fundamental rights,” the annual report read.

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India’s overall score was 39 in 2023 while it was 40 in 2022.

Seventy-one per cent of the countries across Asia and the Pacific have a CPI score below the regional average score of 45 and the global average of 43 out of 100, observed the report. “These weak scores reflect the lack of delivery by elected officials on anti-corruption agendas, together with crackdowns on organised civil society and attacks on freedoms of press, assembly and association,” said the Transparency International.

South Asia

However, India’s ranking is better than its neighbours. In South Asia, both Pakistan (133) and Sri Lanka (115) grapple with their respective debt burdens and ensuing political instability, the report explained. “However, the two countries have strong judicial oversight, which is helping to keep the government in check. The Supreme Court of Pakistan strengthened citizens’ right to information by expanding this right under Article 19A of its Constitution to previously restricted institutions,” it said.

The report said as Bangladesh (149) emerged from the least developed country (LDC) status, with economic growth supporting a continued reduction in poverty and improving living conditions, the flow of information on the public sector is hindered amidst an ongoing crackdown against the press.

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Noting that China (76) grabbed attention with its aggressive anti-corruption crackdown, punishing more than 3.7 million public officials for corruption over the last decade, the report said a closer examination of the cases with guilty verdicts indicated that public officials often use corruption as a way to drive up their income.

Top countries

Countries with continued high scores, such as New Zealand (85) and Singapore (83), maintain their positions at the top of the index globally, followed closely by others with stronger corruption control mechanisms, such as Australia (75), Hong Kong (75), Japan (73), Bhutan (68), Taiwan (67) and South Korea (63).

The bottom of the index included fragile states with authoritarian regimes, including North Korea (17) and Myanmar (20), with the latter dropping a staggering 10 points since 2017. Afghanistan (20) continues to face one of the worst humanitarian crises in history, the report flagged.