The Philippines is perceived by foreign businessmen as Asia’s most corrupt economy, according to a survey on Tuesday that also found other countries failing to tackle the problem decisively.
Singapore and Hong Kong were seen as the cleanest economies, while China, Indonesia and Vietnam posted improvements, the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) said in a summary.
Perceptions of corruption in Thailand worsened, with the junta that seized power last September seen as little better than the government it ousted.
“The Philippines has the distinction of being perceived in the worst light this year,” PERC said after polling 1,500 expatriate business executives in 13 countries and territories across the region in January and February.
In a grading system with zero as the best possible score and 10 the worst, the Philippines got 9.40, down sharply from its grade of 7.80 last year. Indonesia was deemed Asia’s most corrupt country in 2006.
Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, also an economist, dismissed the survey results, saying PERC was using “old data” and noting that the country's international credit ratings had improved on her watch.
PERC, which provides advice to private firms and governments, said the figures showed a deterioration of perception rather than a change in the actual situation in Manila.
The protracted corruption trial of deposed president Joseph Estrada “is an example of the problem and probably explains why respondents to our survey were so negative in their assessment” of the country.
Thailand and Indonesia, both on a grade of 8.03, shared the spot as Asia's second most corrupt nations. Thailand’s image worsened slightly on last year while Indonesia’s score was better.
The junta that ousted Thaksin Shinawatra as Thailand’s PM last September promised to fight corruption “but there is no reason to be confident that its behaviour will be any cleaner,” PERC said.
India was in fifth place. The summary said the government must accelerate reforms, warning that corruption can limit companies’ expansion plans.
Singapore again just beat regional rival Hong Kong as the cleanest economy, although the latter posted a sharp improvement from its image in 2006.
PERC’s managing director Robert Broadfoot said this may have resulted from a perception that “the differences between Hong Kong and (mainland) China are even starker now.”