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Republic's 'mediocre' score on global corruption index may cost jobs

The Irish Examiner, by Niamh Hennessy, September 24th, 2008

Ireland jumped one place to 16th in the 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) compiled by Transparency International (TI). It scored 7.7, up from 7.5 last year, with a score close to 10 suggesting extremely low levels of corruption.

But despite the slight improvement the report said Ireland's "mediocre score" places it at a competitive disadvantage against its European neighbours such as Sweden and Denmark who came joint first.

It said the Scandinavian countries are making the most of their countries' names for integrity, while countries such as Singapore and New Zealand regularly market themselves using their high rankings on the corruption index.

Chief executive of TI Ireland John Devitt said: "Corruption and cover-ups are picked up by international investors like sharks smelling blood".

The improvement in Ireland's reputation for honesty is partly because Britain's image has got dramatically worse as a result of the British government's decision to block an investigation into alleged billion dollar bribes to Saudi officials, the report said. Britain fell from 12th spot last year to joint 16th this year.

"The dramatic fall in the UK's score is a likely sign of investor concerns about alleged corruption in Britain's aerospace industry, and lax controls on political funding," added Mr Devitt.

Ireland's ranking experienced a similar fall six years ago when evidence emerged of payments to Charles Haughey and others.

A continued gap in trust in Ireland is going to cost our economy and in the long term cost us jobs, according to Justin Keogan, chair of TI's Irish chapter.

"The global financial crisis makes perceptions of corruption all the more significant for Ireland as countries' markets increasingly rely on investor trust."

The US, in 18th place with a score of 7.3 points, still ranks among the lowest industrial countries, TI said, pointing to the lack of campaign-finance reform and the presence of special-interest lobbyists in government decisions.

"Nearly three-quarters of voters polled after the 2006 US congressional elections identified corruption as an extremely important issue," the report said.

Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden topped the list as cleanest countries. Somalia ranked last, followed by Burma, Iraq and Haiti.

Countries that improved in the ranking included Albania, Georgia, Nigeria, South Korea and Turkey, the group said.