Armenia’s has slightly improved its position in an annual survey of corruption perceptions around the world conducted by Transparency International.
Still, it ranked, together with Macedonia, Ethiopia and Vietnam, only 107th out of 180 countries and territories evaluated in the Berlin-based watchdog’s 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released late on Wednesday.
By comparison, neighboring Georgia is 45th while Azerbaijan 122nd in the rankings based on interviews with businesspeople and experts. Armenia was also rated less corrupt than Russia (135th), Ukraine (130th), Moldova (122nd) and all five ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia.
Armenia occupied 113th place in the 2016 CPI that that covered 176 nations. Transparency International assigned it a CPI “score” of 33 out of 100 last year. It raised the country’s score to 35 in the latest survey.
Varuzhan Hoktanian, the director of programs at Transparency International’s Armenian affiliate, the Anti-Corruption Center (ACC), downplayed the slight improvement, saying that it was within the survey’s margin of error. “We could have said that there has been a [real] improvement if [the score] had reached 37 or 38,” Hoktanian told a news conference on Thursday.
Bribery and other corrupt practices have long been widespread in Armenia despite successive governments’ pledges to tackle the problem. The current Armenian government described it as “the biggest obstacle to the development of the state” shortly after it was reshuffled in September-October 2016. And President Serzh Sarkisian declared in November that combatting corruption has become “a matter of national security.”
The ACC and other civic groups remain skeptical about these pledges. Hoktanian insisted that the authorities still lack the “political will” to fight against graft. “They do enact [anti-corruption] laws,” he said. “The problem is their implementation.”
A Transparency International statement similarly noted that in lower-ranked countries such laws are “often skirted or ignored.” It also said: “Higher-ranked countries tend to have higher degrees of press freedom, access to information about public expenditure, stronger standards of integrity for public officials, and independent judicial systems.”