A recent survey of perceived corruption in Asia does not offer much good news.
Transparency International, an anti-corruption watchdog, surveyed almost 22,000 people from sixteen different countries in Asia over a year and a half, focusing on the prevalence of corruption. The vast majority of respondents painted a picture of corruption which is widespread, even endemic, in countries throughout Asia.
RKN Global’s founder, Ronald Noble, observes that corruption is a natural consequence of human nature, and that various factors in any given social structure or society are at play in making it more or less prevalent. One crucial factor is the prevalence of corruption that already exists. The more likely a person thinks he or she is surrounded by a culture of corruption, the more easily he or she will in fact engage in corruption.
In light of this, the study’s findings are disturbing, because they indicate both that corruption is widespread in Asia, but also that people perceive corruption as being widespread. This, in fact, makes it more difficult to eradicate corruption.
Among the surprising results, the study found that almost 70 percent of respondents from India had paid bribes in order to access fundamental public services like elementary education and health services in the previous year. The survey extrapolated from this and other data that in Asia, more than 900 million people had paid such bribes in the previous year. This is an extraordinary number: Put otherwise, it essentially says that in Asia alone, 16% of the world’s entire adult population paid bribes in order to access services that are widely considered a fundamental human right.
Along similar lines, almost one third of the survey respondents admitted to bribing a police officer in the previous year, twenty-two percent had bribes for public school, and eighteen percent paid to be able to get medical treatment in a public hospital.
High-profile government scandals, though certainly not unique to Asia, undoubtedly contributed to the perception of widespread corruption. Hong Kong’s former mayor, Donald Tsang, was recently handed a prison sentence, and South Korea’s president was impeached due to a corruption scandal involving her sharing classified information with an adviser without security clearance, who used her proximity to the president for corrupt personal enrichment and also entangled the leader of the corporate giant, Samsung.