KUALA LUMPUR, 3 June 2009: Indonesia appears to be fighting corruption more effectively than Malaysia, based on a public perceptions survey by Transparency International (TI).
Once looked down upon as a bribery-prone country, more Indonesians, at 74%, are confident that their government’s actions to stem corruption have proven effective, compared to only 28% of Malaysians.
Additionally, only 19% of Indonesians thought their government ineffective in fighting corruption, compared to 67% of Malaysians who thought the same.
He attributed the republic’s success to having a more open society.
“We are now behind Indonesia which we used to have a low opinion of. But they have obviously had a breakthrough. They have a more open culture of debate and discourse in their society,” Low said at a press conference.
For example, he said he was surprised that TI Indonesia officials could speak freely about corrupt institutions in the country on television.
Low said the Malaysian press was now freer than before, but added that more should be done to promote investigative journalism as a means to expose corruption.
Datuk Paul Low, president of
Transparency International Malaysia
He added that having freedom of information laws would also go some way in restoring people’s faith in anti-corruption efforts.
Asked for his views on which areas of reform Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had to address urgently, Low said they were, corruption in political parties, the police force, and the perception of selective prosecution.
Political parties and civil service
The GCB 2009 survey had asked respondents in 69 countries to rank which of six sectors they felt was the most corrupt. On the global average, political parties and the civil service were perceived as the most corrupt sectors.
In Malaysia, 42% deemed political parties the most corrupt, followed by the civil service (37%), the private sector (12%), judiciary (5%), the legislature (4%) and the media (1%).
That Malaysians thought corruption was worst in political parties was likely because the survey was taken between October 2008 and February 2009, Low said, referring to the “atmosphere then” that was rife with talk of political defections.
“The perception is based on the pervasiveness of money politics with rumours of money being paid for crossovers,” he said.
He proposed that political parties publicly account for their sources of funding as “nobody knows how political parties are funded, both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat”.
“To change people’s perception and restore credibility, political parties must eliminate money politics and must have more visibility in their political funding. These may require changes in electoral laws,” Low said.
In other Asia Pacific countries, when corruption was perceived to be higher in the civil service and political parties, it was seen as lower in the business sector, and vice-versa.
Low cited Singapore as an example, where 66% surveyed felt corruption was worst in the private sector, compared to 10% who believed the same about political parties and 9% about the civil service.
When it came to personal experience in paying bribes, 9% of Malaysian respondents said they had paid a bribe in the previous year. The Asia Pacific average is 10%.
Globally, those who paid bribes the most often were from the lower-income bracket. Bribes were paid mostly to the police, judiciary, and for basic services. However, Low said that such corruption afflicted the poor mainly in other countries, and was less apparent in Malaysia.
On why people did not lodge formal complaints about bribery, over 50% of respondents globally said “it would not have helped at all”. “It would have taken too much time” and “fear of reprisals” were the second and third most common answers.
Half of all respondents globally and in Malaysia said they were willing to buy products or services from companies that were “corruption-free”.
Low said this should encourage the private sector to be more transparent and to improve compliance with ethical standards to appeal to consumers.
This marks the first time Malaysia is included in the GCB survey which gauges public perception of corruption and bribery in key institutions, and citizens’ views on government efforts to fight corruption.
The GCB does not carry a global ranking like the Global Corruption Perceptions Index, in which Malaysia was ranked 47 out of 180 countries in 2008. Malaysia’s score on the index has shown little improvement in the last eight years, plateauing between 4.9 and 5.1 out of 10, Low said.