In Brief

The ten most corrupt countries in the world

Cycle of corruption has fuelled social inequality, which has pushed disenchanted citizens toward populism

The rise of populism over the past year has led to an increase in corruption, according to a new report.

Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index, which surveys experts from the likes of the World Bank, World Economic Forum and the Economist Intelligence Unit, found corruption increased in 2016.

An "unequal distribution of power in society and unequal distribution of wealth" has created a "continuous cycle of corruption fuelling social inequality which has led to disenchanted citizens across the globe, who then turn to populist politicians", it said.

Transparency's president, Jose Ugaz, said the perception of corruption has risen in countries where governments are becoming more autocratic.

"Instead of tackling crony capitalism," leaders "usually install even worse forms of corrupt systems", he said.

"In countries with populist or autocratic leaders, we often see democracies in decline and a disturbing pattern of attempts to crack down on civil society, limit press freedom and weaken the independence of the judiciary."

Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought to tighten his grip on power, and Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been criticised for increasing authoritarianism, have both seen their scores fall in recent years - the lower the score, the more corrupt the country.

Meanwhile, Argentina, which ousted a populist government late in 2015, is showing signs of improvement.

Transparency International also cites the Panama Papers leak and other revelations of tax-evasion, money-laundering and "massive and pervasive" public-sector corruption networks as further causes of the overall rise in corruption recorded in the past year.

It called for "deep-rooted systemic reforms" to re-establish the balance of power and wealth. Among the proposals are "a public registry of beneficial owners of companies and penalties for professionals who move corrupt money across borders".

Somalia, which has held the dubious honour of being the world's most corrupt country for the past ten years, retains its place at the top of the list, followed by South Sudan, North Korea and Syria.

The US dropped two points from last year, dragging its ranking down to 18th overall. Transparency issued a statement last week in which it said Trump's government appointments and failure to divest himself of his business interests were "rife with potential conflicts of interest".

The ten least corrupt nations:

1. Denmark2. New Zealand3. Finland4. Sweden5. Switzerland6. Norway7. Singapore8. Netherlands9. Canada10. Germany/Luxembourg/UK (joint)

And the most corrupt:

1. Somalia2. South Sudan3. North Korea4. Syria5. Yemen6. Sudan7. Libya8. Afghanistan9. Guinea-Bissau10. Venezuela/Iraq (joint)

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