(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The Cabinet and the Anti-Corruption Agency should hold emergency meetings in view of the possibility that Malaysia’s placing in the 1998 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index is likely to slip further, falling to the lowest position in four years.
Malaysia had come out badly in the 1997 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, falling from the 23rd place in the 1995 index to 26th place in 1996 and going down further to the 32nd place in 1997.
For two months last year, when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was Acting Prime Minister, he spearheaded an all-out war against corruption, declaring that the time had come not only for the "small ones", but the "big ones" in corruption to be arrested, wanting not only those who accepted RM20 bribes but also those who accepted RM2 million to be brought to book.
Last year, Parliament also passed a new Anti-Corruption Act with great publicity as heralding a new era for a clean, honest and incorruptible administration in Malaysia.
Malaysians have had great misgivings about the seriousness of the government to launch an all-out war against corruption and DAP MPs have expressed their reservations about the new anti-corruption law as there was no political will to create a new culture of integrity in politics and public life with zero tolerance for corruption.
These misgivings and reservations that Malaysia has turned a new page in the war against corruption seems likely to be confirmed as the 1998 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index which is expected to be released in the next few months is likely to be even more unfavourable than last year.
That Malaysia’s placing in the forthcoming TI Corruption Perception Index is likely to worsen could be anticipated by the latest report on corruption in Asia released by the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd. (PERC) recently, where Malaysia has fallen from fourth to fifth placing out of 12 Asian nations in terms of gravity of perception of corruption.
In its annual survey on corruption in Asia, which is one of the sources used by the TI in its preparation for its Corruption Perception Index, the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd ranked responses from 427 expatriates working in the region, who graded countries on a scale of zero to 10, with 10 being "the most corruption imaginable".
Although Malaysia’s score had improved from 5.80 in 1997 to 5.38 in 1998, its fourth placing had been taken over by Taiwan, which was ranked fifth after Malaysia last year, as Taiwan’s score of 5.96 had improved and bettered that of Malaysia to 5.20 for 1998.
This means that although there had been marginal improvement in the perception of corruption in Malaysia, there had been greater improvements in other countries.
The PERC’s placings arising from its corruption comparisons of the 12
Asian countries this year are:
Rank Country Grades
98 97 98 97
1 1 Singapore 1.43 1.05
2 2 Hong Kong 2.74 3.03
3 3 Japan 5.00 4.60
4 5 Taiwan 5.20 5.96
5 4 Malaysia 5.38 5.80
6 10 China 6.97 8.06
7 8 South Korea 7.12 7.71
8 6 Philippines 7.17 6.50
9 11 India 7.40 8.20
10 9 Vietnam 8.25 8.00
11 7 Thailand 8.29 7.49
Last year, I had said that it would not be easy for Malaysia to leapfrog from the present No. 32 position in the TI Corruption Perception Index to within the first ten least corrupt nations, but if the entire Malaysian society is committed to become one of the ten least corrupt nations in the world, such a goal is not impossible – even if it takes us one whole decade to do so.
It would appear that far from improving on our international rankings in terms of international perceptions on corruption, Malaysia stands the risk of slipping further in the international rankings, partly because of lack of political will to declare an all-out war against corruption and the reforms being made by other countries to wipe out corruption in their systems.