LAHORE: Corruption level has remained high in Pakistan despite some improvements made in 1997 and 1998, the year when transparency hit its highest levels. Earlier in 1996, Transparency International declared Pakistan the second most corrupt country in the world.

Though it is no more the most corrupt nation in the world, it remains one of the most corrupt. Corruption in Pakistan has been viewed by many global monitoring agencies with grave concern.

The World Bank, in its latest report, says that corruption is largely associated with business-government interface and reveals that the menace is more widespread in Pakistan as compared to other countries.

Referring to a survey conducted for preparing a draft report, the Bank says results show that perceptions about corruption in Pakistan are based on actual experiences with payment of bribes by investing firms. It reveals that firms making investment have to pay bribes even to get water, telephone and electricity connections.

The National Corruption Perception Survey 2009, conducted by the Pakistan chapter of Transparency International, indicates that overall corruption increased from Rs45 billion in 2002 to Rs195 billion in 2009. Police and Power maintained their ranking as the top two most corrupt sectors in the country.

According to US-based Heritage Foundation, corruption is perceived pervasive in Pakistan. Corruption among executive and legislative branch officials is viewed as widespread. The Foundation in its Economic Freedom Index 2009 labeled corruption as the most repressive factor in economic freedom.

The Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International is given weight by all global agencies like the World Bank, Heritage Foundation and the World Economic Forum. When Pakistan was declared the second most corrupt country in the world by TI in 1996, it caused uproar in the country which created some awareness of corruption and measures were taken to improve governance.

The transparency score of the country improved from one out of full score of 10 in 1996 to 2.53 in 1997. The score improved further to 2.7 in 1998, which proved the highest level in the following decade.

During the much-trumpeted period of better governance under Musharraf, the highest transparency score achieved by the country was 2.6 in 2002.

Thereafter, the score declined to 2.1 in 2004 and 2005. It, however, improved to 2.5 in 2008. Governance experts point out that even at transparency score of 2.7, Pakistan remained a highly corrupt country as non-transparency or corruption was 73 per cent. At current transparency score of 2.5, corruption stands at 75 per cent.

“This is pathetic,” said senior economist Naveed Anwar Khan. In other words, he said “it means that on every Rs100 we spend on development, almost Rs75 are lost in corruption. If corruption is curbed we will need one-fourth of our development budget for the current annual development programme.”

He said the transparency score of India and Pakistan was at almost the same level in 2002. However, India improved governance by 30 per cent to attain a score of 3.4 in 2008 while China which was at Pakistan’s level in 1997 improved its score to 3.6.

That, he added, explained the great leap the economies of these two countries had taken compared with the decline in Pakistan. He said corruption during the last 12 months had increased substantially which would be reflected in the Corruption Perception Index of TI for 2009.

Source: The News