New results on corruption have been published by Transparency International, which is a noted and generally respected authority on the matter. These are the figures for Southeast Asia:
4. Singapore 9.2
47. Malaysia 5.1
80. Thailand 3.5
121. Vietnam 2.7
126. Indonesia 2.6
141. Philippines 2.3
145. East Timor (Timor-Leste) 2.2
151. Laos 2.0
166. Cambodia 1.6
178 Burma 1.3
(Brunei was not listed.) As ever, Singapore aside, these are fairly poor results for the whole region – given that economic and social/political development tend to proceed in tandem more or less, it would be expected that rankings here would approximate rankings in terms of overall economic development – most are much lower. Burma is only one place off the bottom and equal to Iraq. Cambodia is not much better.
Thailand has slowly improved over the years, especially since 2001, when various measures were implemented to improve government efficiency and reduce corruption opportunities – for example, electronic auctions when bidding for government contracts and introducing coherent ideology and party memberships to reduce the importance of vote-buying. The score declined in 2006 and 2007 because of the influence of the PAD mob preventing government action and during the disastrous military junta period. The results for this year are unlikely to be very positive, since the mob continues to prevent much of government business and this will automatically affect the score, given the methodology employed.
Of course, historically foreign investors have not always wanted to have a high transparency index when it means they can hide dubious corporate practices or collude in suppressing dangerous or abusive labour standards – we have seen our fair share of that in Thailand. However, it is no way to prepare for competitiveness in the future. The first thing to do will be to restore the rule of law and the principle that all people are equal before the law. Well, ‘restore’ is perhaps not the right word.