By Simona Sikimic
Monday, December 13, 2010
BEIRUT: Corruption continues to pervade in Lebanon with 83 percent of the public believing it has increased over the last three years, a report by international advocacy watchdog Transparency International has found.
Only three other countries fared worse, with 86 percent of people in Venezuela, 87 percent in Romania and 88 percent in Senegal believing corruption was on the upswing.
Lebanon tied with Portugal in one of the biggest surprises in “The Global Corruption Barometer 2010” report, which found that overwhelming majorities of European and North American residents considered corruption to be increasing, largely as a result of the global economic recession and the failure of big, previously trusted banks, such as Lehman Brothers.
Released last week, the findings have sent shockwaves across the policy making world by showing that despite a growing number professing to be cracking down on the practice, governments were generally not trusted to fight corruption and were considered to be largely ineffective.
In Lebanon only 32 percent of people thought institutional efforts were having some kind of impact, with 56 percent deeming reforms “ineffective” and 12 percent remaining undecided.
“The big problem with Lebanon, and it is a chronic problem, is that the continued paralysis of government is adding to the problem,” Lebanese Transparency Association Yahya Hakim, told The Daily Star. “In the absence of authority there is nothing to stop public servants and people in power from asking for bribes and taking advantage of their fellow citizens.
“Along with much of the Arab world, we still do not have the true idea of citizenship, and people are citizens in nothing but name, thus remaining rather a society of subjects.”
The prospect of change remains slim until fully-fledged free, open, free democratic elections can take place all across the region, he said.
Indeed, the political class is considered to be the most corrupt according to the report which polls the perceptions and experiences of ordinary people. Lebanese political parties scored 4.1 out of 5 for corruption, while public officials and the Parliament were awarded 3.9 and 3.8 respectively.
Although findings for few other Arab states were included in this year’s report, these figures are significantly higher than those recorded in Palestine, where political parties were awarded 3.1, Parliament 2.9 and public officials 2.8.
They are, however, somewhat lower than those found in Israel, where corresponding rankings were 4.5, 4.0 and 3.9, and are roughly on par with the US where the corruption of political parties was ranked 4.3 and Parliament at 4.0.
Regardless of the similarity, Lebanon falls behind in two crucial fields: that of judicial independence and police corruption. “The worst offense is that of the judiciary, which is supposed to stand up for the rights of every individual regardless of ethnicity, religious background or social status, and protect from abuses” said Hakim. “But they are not upholding the Constitution.”
While police were also deemed to be largely corrupt – ranking 3.7 – their inclusion is actually being considered as a positive development.
“Previously, people in an Arab country would have felt too threatened to speak out about an institution like the police, but they are talking about it and raising awareness of the problem,” Hakim added.
The army – traditionally upheld as a bastion of respectability in the country – fared best in the survey, scoring 2.4, well ahead of education and religious establishments and non-governmental organizations which all polled 3.0.
The 2010 Barometer is the only world-wide public opinion survey on corruption, recording the views of some 91,500 people in 86 countries and territories.