By Emil Danielyan
Armenia was rated the second least corrupt country of the Commonwealth of Independent States in an annual global survey released by the anti-graft watchdog Transparency International on Tuesday. Its two ex-Soviet neighbors fared much more poorly.
Together with four other countries, Armenia shares 78th place in the Berlin-based organization’s 2003 rankings of 133 nations based on the degree of their government corruption perceived by business leaders, academics and risk analysts.
The resulting Corruption Perception Index (CPI) rates them on a 10-point scale where a score of 10 indicates the virtual absence of graft among public officials and politicians. Finland, which tops the global list, comes very close to that mark with a score of 9.7.
Armenia scored 3.0, or just below the threshold for a “high level” of corruption as defined by Transparency International.
Countries scoring less than 2.0 are considered the worst cases where corruption is perceived to be “pervasive.” Among them are neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan which were placed in 124th place along with three other states. It is the first time that the CPI puts Georgia on a par with Azerbaijan which has long been considered by Transparency International as one of the world’s most corrupt states.
Only one CIS country covered by the survey, Belarus, ranked higher than Armenia, grabbing the respectable 53rd place. The grouping’s most powerful member, Russia, came in 86th. Only one ex-Soviet state, Turkmenistan, was excluded from the corruption index which requires at least three sources of credible information about a country.
Armenia was not covered by the two previous Transparency studies for that reason. In 2000, it was 76th on the list of 90 countries surveyed with a score of 2.5. The latest CPI suggests that the international watchdog has found a certain reduction in the scale of corrupt practices in Armenia . Transparency International’s representatives in Yerevan could not be reached for comment, and it was not clear in which specific areas they see an improvement.
In recent years the Armenian government has simplified its licensing procedures for businesses and enacted a set of laws aimed at complicating bribery and favoritism. A team of government experts has been working since 2001 on a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy which is due to be unveiled later this year. Its publication is increasingly demanded by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
However, there is widespread skepticism about the promised crackdown on corruption. The initial version of the document has already been rejected by one of the three parties making up Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s coalition government, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun).