Latvia falls in corruption index

After several years of improvements, Latvia’s ranking in a global index of corruption has dropped almost to the point it was at five years ago, according to results announced Nov. 17 by the Berlin-based anti-graft organization Transparency International.

Latvia ranked 56th out of 180 countries in the 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index, down from 52nd in last year’s ranking, according to a press release from the organization.

The country’s ranking fell, the organization said, “primarily due to high profile corruption scandals and the previous government’s attempt to undermine the national anti-corruption agency in 2008,” a reference to former Prime Minister Aigars Kalvītis, the government’s sudden takeover of Parex Bank, and the government’s relationship with the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (Korupcijas novēršanas un apkarošanas birojs).

“Perhaps the single most damaging corruption case concerned the previous government’s bailout of a locally owned bank at the end of 2008, which benefitted the bank’s owners, large investors and possibly, political decision-makers,” according to Transparency International. “The bailout eventually contributed to the collapse of the Latvian economy, which has badly affected government operations, including its ability to fight corruption.”

The index evaluates perceptions of public sector corruption. Countries are evaluated through a variety of surveys and given a score from zero (most corrupt) to 10 (least corrupt). Latvia’s score was 4.5, a notable decrease from the 5.0 it achieved in the 2008 index. However, Transparency International warns that the index “is not a tool that is suitable for monitoring progress or lack of progress over time.”

Malaysia, Namibia, Samoa and Slovakia also all scored 4.5.

Estonia, with a score of 6.6, ranked 27th and was unchanged from last year. Lithuania, with a score of 4.9, ranked 52nd, up from 58th last year.

Perceived as least corrupt were New Zealand at 9.4, Denmark at 9.3, and Singapore and Sweden, which were tied at 9.2. At the bottom of the index was Somalia, with a score of 1.1.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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