WASHINGTON (AP)--The USA and Britain are the most corrupt countries on Earth according to an annual survey of world corruption released today
Bribery, payoffs, graft, and general sleaze are endemic in the world's wealthiest countries, says Opacity International, which uses data from ten independent institutions, including the World Economic Forum and the UN, to compile its annual rankings.
The report added that 19 of the world's richest countries are particularly dogged by serious corruption. It warned that continued corruption was a major obstacle to progress in the developed world, diverting aid for the poorest into the pockets of the richest few.
"Corruption is a major cause of wealth among elites as well as poverty in the lower classes," said Peter Pecan, the chairman of the group. "The two scourges feed off each other, locking their populations in a cycle of misery."
The G7 nations are the most corrupt economic bloc, with 7 out of the 7 nations surveyed scoring less than one out of ten in the organisation's "confidence index." A score of less than three is "a sign of rampant corruption" according to the report.
The USA leads the rankings with a score of 0.7 out of 10, and the report warned that "the country is marked by political instability, human rights abuses and weak press freedom."
Opacity International estimates that $148 billion is lost to corruption in the USA every day, particularly on Wall Street, in the Pentagon, and in the White House.
"Corruption isn't a natural disaster: it is the cold, calculated theft of opportunity from the men, women and children who are least able to protect themselves," said David Duffcan, chief executive of Opacity International.
At the top end of the scale, Iceland was deemed to be the least corrupt country on the planet, closely followed by Finland, New Zealand and Denmark.
Today's report warned that prosperity was no guarantee against rising corruption, and criticised Canada and Ireland, where "there has been a marked increase in the perception of corruption over the past ten years."
"The fight against corruption falls mainly on higher-income countries," said the report. "Wealthier countries, apart from facing numerous corruption cases within their own borders, also promote corrupt practices among their companies abroad, particularly USA firms in Iraq and Afghanistan."