Money could very well be the root of all evil — though in the latest study of corrupt countries, it's actually the lack of money that sparks trouble. The new report by Transparency International found that in two-fifths of the world's nations, corruption continues to intensify — a trend that can be traced to economic realities. In the countries found to be the most corrupt, 40 percent are classified by the World Bank as low income.
Transparency International's rankings range on a scale from 10 (on the up-and-up) to 1 (rampant corruption). How common is corruption? Of the 180 countries surveyed, 132 of them had scores below a 5. Other factors that contribute to a cloudy ethical picture are weak governments and conflict. The chairman of Transparency International says, "Countries torn apart by conflict pay a huge toll in their capacity to govern. With public institutions crippled or nonexistent, mercenary individuals help themselves to public resources, and corruption thrives."
- Helsinki, Finland — the country tied for first as the least corrupt.
- Haitians protest against kidnapping and violence. The country is the fourth most corrupt.
- Novice Buddhist monks in Myanmar, tied for most corrupt country.
- Soccer fans in Romania. The country improved from 69th place to 84th.
- A boy sells water door-to-door in Somalia, tied for most corrupt. Pirates often seize aid shipments to the country.
Another troublesome mix? Weak government plus plentiful natural resources, like in Equatorial Guinea where 30 percent of the newly discovered oil profits go straight to government officials' wallets. To see which countries ranked where, read more.
- The Top Three Least Corrupt: New Zealand (pictured), Denmark (not corrupt and happy!) , and Finland win with scores of 9.4 out of 10. Wealth, stable economies, and a removal from international controversies keep them corruption-free.
- The Two Most Corrupt: Somalia and Myanmar. With scores of 1.4 out of 10, the armed conflict, political oppression, and troubles from Mother Nature (Myanmar's horrific cyclone) and pirates (Somalia) corruption is undeniable.
- Third and Fourth Place: Iraq and Haiti, respectively. Afghanistan comes in at #7.
- Three Countries in Africa Who've Improved: Seychelles, South Africa, and Swaziland all made gains from six to 37 places.
- Five Countries Out of Africa With Improvements: Croatia, the Czech Republic, Macedonia, Romania, and Italy. Transparency International points to the European Union accession process on the fight against corruption.
I don't know, but if Denmark keeps winning prizes for being great, they better expect a lot of visitors. What do you think is the biggest contributor to corruption?