China and India must move to curb corruption or else their booming economies will likely falter, a senior World Bank official said on Friday.
The giant Asian neighbours are growing at annual rates of 10 per cent and 8 per cent respectively, the fastest among the world's major economies, but both score poorly on controlling corruption, according to a World Bank study on quality of governance across countries.
The report used six indicators, including the ability to control corruption, to rank quality of governance in more than 200 countries. China was placed at 31, while India ranked 47 in the list of most corrupt countries. Both countries also have a poor record of enforcing the rule of law, the report said.
"They are not in the right zone," said Daniel Kaufmann, director of global governance at the World Bank's research arm. To sustain their rapid economic growth and graduate to the next level of development, China and India must "pay priority to these issues," Kaufmann said.
Economies of both China and India have grown briskly over the past decade, despite the reported high levels of corruption and some experts have questioned if there is a clear link between corruption and growth.
But Kaufmann said widespread practices of graft will eventually slow growth in the long term. Corruption leads to poor enforcement of the rule of law, weakens regulatory systems, adds to political instability and makes the government less effective - all of which determine the quality of governance in any country, he said.
"A country could get away in the short term, and that short term could be 10 years," he said referring to China.
The World Bank study revealed that poor governance is not an exclusive challenge of the developing world, and that reforming countries can make significant improvements in governance and in curbing corruption in relatively short periods of even less than a decade.
Countries like Slovenia, Chile, Botswana and Estonia score higher in enforcing rule of law and controlling corruption than some industrialised countries such as Greece and Italy, it said.
Similarly, in Africa, countries such as Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and Mozambique have made progress in one or more dimensions of governance over the past decade, it said. For years, experts had given up on African countries, it said.