Indians pay more bribes than any Asian country: Report

Nearly two-thirds of respondents in India and Vietnam said they had to sweeten the deal to access basic services like public education and healthcare. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Bangkok Thailand Mar 07, 2017, 03.45 AM (IST)

More than twenty five per cent of people living in Asia had to pay a bribe to someone in order to access a public service in the past year, said a watchdog Tuesday, calling on governments to root out endemic graft in the region.

The report issued by Berlin-based Transparency International surveyed more than 200,000 in 16 countries across the Asia Pacific region, from Pakistan to Australia.

The results of the study suggest that 900 million people were forced to hand over "tea money" at least one time in the preceeding 12 months.

Transparency International's website says that the report comes at a time when countries of the region are preparing their agendays to me the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Some priorities include reducing all forms of corruption and bribery.

The country where the most people had paid bribes was India, where 69 per cent of respondents said they had to include a bribe in order to access basic services, like public education and healthcare.

To the question "Has corruption increased recently?", 41 per cent of Indians said it either "increased somewhat" or "increased a lot".

The countries in the region with the lowest incidences of bribery were Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Australia.

The poor are hit hardest by corruption with 38 per cent of respondents saying they had to pay a bribe, the highest in any income category. Yet while poorer people were more likely to be targeted in countries like Thailand, India and Pakistan, the reverse trend was found in places like Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia

Police were the most common demanders of kickbacks, according to the survey, with just under one-third of people who had come into contact with an officer in the past year saying they had paid a bribe.  

Those aged under 35 were the most likely to have paid a bribe to access a public service, with 34 per cent saying they had. Next are those aged between 35 and 54-years-old, with 29 per cent. 19 per cent of those older than 55 say they have paid a bribe.

There was only a negligible difference between the percentage of males and females who had paid bribes, at 30 per cent and 27 per cent, respectively.

Corruption hits the poor the most often, as 38 per cent of respondents said they had to pay a bribe, the highest in any income category. But this dynamic doesn't play out in every country. Poorer people were more likely to be targeted for bribery in countries like Thailand, India and Pakistan, but the opposite is true in Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia.

"Governments must do more to deliver on their anti-corruption commitments," Jose Ugaz, the chair of Transparency International, said in a press release. "Bribery is not a small crime, it takes food off the table, it prevents education, it impedes proper healthcare and ultimately it can kill."

When it came to perceptions of corruption Malaysia and Vietnam got the worst ratings from their citizens, who felt graft was widespread and accused their governments of doing little to fight it. 


Government corruption

Corruption scandals have rocked a number of governments in Asia over the past year, dominating news headlines and whipping up protests. 

South Korea's President Park Geun-hye was impeached by parliament in December over a major influence-peddling scandal that prompted millions to take to the street for months to call for her resignation.

Malaysia has also been seized by a graft scandal since 2015, with global investigators accusing Premier Najib Razak and his associates of misappropriating billions of dollars through the state-backed 1MDB fund.

A report last year by a corruption watchdog also detailed the enormous wealth accumulated by the family and friends of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. 

China, meanwhile, has been on anti-corruption drive that has netted more than one million officials, while fellow communist country Vietnam has also jailed a number of former businessmen for graft in its bloated state-run sector.

Thailand's junta government has vowed a similar anti-corruption campaign, but there have been few convictions so far.

(WION with inputs from AFP)