Asia Pacific: How leaders are big on talk but little on action

View the 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index results

If there was one common challenge to unite the Asia Pacific region, it would be corruption. From campaign pledges to media coverage to civil society forums, corruption dominates discussion. Yet despite all this talk, there’s little sign of action. Between Australia’s slipping scores and North Korea’s predictably disastrous performance, the 2015 index shows no significant improvement. Has Asia Pacific stalled in its efforts to fight corruption?

This year’s poor results demand that leaders revisit the genuineness of their efforts and propel the region beyond stagnation.

The good

The public desire for change is huge. In India, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, we’ve seen a host of governments coming to power on anti-corruption platforms. As corruption continues to dominate media coverage across and beyond the region, increasing interest in the issue has sparked a raft of new research into both public and private sector corruption.

The bad

So why this picture of zero progress? Despite boastful efforts on petty corruption, Malaysia’s 1MBD scandal brought the crux of the challenge into sharp focus: is political leadership genuinely committed to fighting corruption throughout society? The Malaysian prime minister’s inability to answer questions on the US$700 million that made its way into his personal bank account is only the tip of the iceberg.

In India and Sri Lanka leaders are falling short of their bold promises, while governments in Bangladesh and Cambodia are exacerbating corruption by clamping down on civil society. In Afghanistan and Pakistan a failure to tackle corruption is feeding ongoing vicious conflicts, while China’s prosecutorial approach isn’t bringing sustainable remedy to the menace. This inability to tackle root causes holds true across the region – witness, for example, Australia’s dwindling score in recent years.

Malaysia’s 1MBD scandal brought the challenge into sharp focus: is political leadership genuinely committed to fighting corruption throughout society?

What needs to happen

Reversing corruption is clearly not solely down to governments, but they’re the ones with the largest role and the power to create enabling environments for others. This year’s poor results demand that leaders revisit the genuineness of their efforts and propel the region beyond stagnation. They must fulfil promises, and ensure efforts aren’t undermined in practice. Anti-corruption commissions are a prime example here: while their creation across the region is commendable, ongoing political interference and inadequate resources has meant many are unable to fulfil their mandate. This has to be addressed.

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Srirak Plipat

About Srirak Plipat

Srirak Pilpat was the Regional Director of the Asia Pacific Department at Transparency International.

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8 Responses to Asia Pacific: How leaders are big on talk but little on action

  1. Kumar B.S. 28 January 2016 at 4:42 am #

    Look at the prevalence of money politics by the present ruling party during the previous election. It is justified to say the present Govt. is not democratically elected but bought from
    People.That is the reason we still maintain around 50 as a corrupted nation. When come
    to Mega Corruption nobody can beat us. We are World Champion Thanks to The Super Twister Najib , The Thief of Malaysia

  2. Robin J Hill 28 January 2016 at 10:52 am #

    I didn’t see Vanuatu on the list. It has been on the list previously I believe, and in the light of the recent imprionment of 14 MP’s for corruption, it would be interesting to see where Vanuatu now lay. In the recent General Election the preliminary election results suggest that, in those ridings where previous MP’s were tainted by corrupt practices, voters have chosen more progressive candidates.

  3. Nasir Islam 29 January 2016 at 3:29 pm #

    Transparency’s efforts to mobilize anti-corruption movement is highly commendable. However, in most corrupt countries corruption is New Normal. Second and third generation, the progeny of corrupt leaders, trained in Oxbridge/Ivy League, Sorbonne, have moderenized corruption and invented new ways of parking the loot from their countries in Dubai, London, Paris, New York, Barcelona, Luxumburg, Zurich in pricy real estate, shell companies and banks. We need to pressure the governments of these and other smaller safe havens for loot to become transparent and make public the names of the owners of these properties and bank accounts.

  4. Nasir Islam 29 January 2016 at 4:53 pm #

    Singapore is perhaps the unique example of corruption erradication. The formula used was ZERO TOLERANCE, SEVERE PUNISHMENT. The country I know best is Pakistan. To the best of my knowledge Grand Corruption has rarely been punished. Practically all of Pakistan’s top political leaders, with the exception of very few founders, are tainted with corruption allegation. There is independent media now naming but not shaming. There are scores of Anti-Corruption agencies. There is the high judiciary. And yet the big fish has never been caught. Pakistan’s so called National Reconciliation Ordinance ( NRO) gave amnesty to hundreds of corrupt politicians and senior bureaycrats who had absconded with the loot to safe havens abroad. Partially the United States was responsible for it in the name of restoring democracy. The result was the return of all the usual suspects – corrupt absconders. They then happily sat in Presidential, Prime Ministerial palaces, Parliament, Ministries with their cronies in state enterprises and bureaucracy and continued to loot the country, business as usual.

  5. Miguel R. 15 February 2016 at 7:40 am #

    With the current Philippine president’s platform of hoping to crack down on corruption, many corrupt practices have been uncovered. No less than the Vice President himself as well as his family are under scrutiny for the questionable acquisition of their assets. He (the VP) would be running for President this year. In 2015, one of the most notable corruption case found was the bullet-planting at the NAIA international airport where airport staff plant a bullet in your luggage before scanning and then extort money to “make it all go away”.
    The current administration may have produced some results but it seems to be concentrated on the capital city and there seems to be a lack of attention to provincial areas especially in the south.

  6. aftab ashraf 19 February 2016 at 4:43 pm #

    corruption is a cancer for a nation who die the people slowly slowly ,before election politicion says we are public servent but reality is opposite .always think 100 time before casting vote.

  7. Kongxay Bounnapha. 25 February 2016 at 8:24 pm #

    Laos is the most corrupt country in South East Asia. The international community, including Transparency have urged the Communist Leaders taking action, but nothing has happen. Lao people are getting poorer and the whole world knows that. The gap between the poor and the rich people looks like the sky and the earth.


  1. Asia Pacific: How leaders are big on talk but little on action | Track Any Thing You Want Throgh Your Mobile App - 3 February 2016

    […] Asia Pacific: How leaders are big on talk but little on action Despite boastful efforts on petty corruption, Malaysia's 1MBD scandal brought the crux of the challenge into sharp focus: is political leadership genuinely committed to fighting corruption throughout society? The Malaysian prime minister's inability to … Read more on Transparency International (press release) (blog) […]