The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Corruption in the Arab world

This just in from the BBC: Oil wealth 'can cause corruption'.

Good to know they're on top of things. Actually, to be fair this is a story about the latest report by Transparency International, the corruption watchdog. The Arab world, as always, does not fare particularly well. The least corrupt Arab countries are Oman and the United Arab Emirates who share a ranking of 29th (1st being the least corrupt, this year Finland) with Bahrain (slightly lower than Israel), Jordan and Qatar trailing not far behind in the mid-30s. Egypt and Morocco are way behind, sharing the 77th ranking -- lower than Saudi Arabia and Syria, which is a bit of a surprise -- and at the same level as Turkey. Libya and the Palestinian Authority don't do too well and share the 108th position. The oil revenue issue is highlighted here:

“Corruption robs countries of their potential,” said [Transparency International (TI) Chairman Peter] Eigen. “As the Corruption Perceptions Index 2004 shows, oil-rich Angola, Azerbaijan, Chad, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya, Nigeria, Russia, Sudan, Venezuela and Yemen all have extremely low scores. In these countries, public contracting in the oil sector is plagued by revenues vanishing into the pockets of western oil executives, middlemen and local officials.”

TI urges western governments to oblige their oil companies to publish what they pay in fees, royalties and other payments to host governments and state oil companies. “Access to this vital information will minimise opportunities for hiding the payment of kickbacks to secure oil tenders, a practice that has blighted the oil industry in transition and post-war economies,” said Eigen.

And guess which Arab country is at the very bottom of the heap, along with notoriously corrupt countries like Pakistan, Congo, Azerbaijan, Myanmar and Haiti (the lowest-ranked country)?

Yup, that's right: Iraq. Sure, it was probably down there at the bottom of the table under Saddam Hussein and the various "Mr. 10%" that controlled business, but seen as this is a report for 2004, I'm curious who they are reporting as corrupt: the Iraqi interim government, foreign contractors or the former CPA?

“The future of Iraq depends on transparency in the oil sector,” added Eigen. “The urgent need to fund postwar construction heightens the importance of stringent transparency requirements in all procurement contracts,” he continued. “Without strict anti-bribery measures, the reconstruction of Iraq will be wrecked by a wasteful diversion of resources to corrupt elites.”