One of the main objective of the current Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been to make India corruption free. But it seems the country still has a long way to go. A recent survey by Transparency International (TI), an anti-corruption global civil society organization, states that India has the highest bribery rate among the 16 Asia Pacific countries surveyed. Nearly seven in 10 people who accessed public services in India had paid a bribe. In contrast, Japan has the lowest bribery rate, with 0.2% respondents paying a bribe.
Approximately 900 million — or over one in four — people across 16 countries in Asia Pacific, including some of its biggest economies like India and China, are estimated to have paid a bribe to access public services. For its report titled “People and Corruption: Asia Pacific”, TI spoke to nearly 22,000 people in these countries about their recent experiences with corruption.
Even massive economic players like China aren’t that far behind India. The biggest economy in the region has a lot to do in terms of fighting corruption. Nearly three quarters of the people surveyed in the country said corruption has increased over the past three years, suggesting people don’t see much work happening against corruption.
People in the survey were also asked to rate their government in terms of how it was performing in fighting public sector corruption. More than half the people living in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia felt that their government was doing a good job in fighting corruption. In contrast people in South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia didn’t think highly of their government in its fight against corruption.
Services people pay for
Across the region, nearly two in five said that they thought most or all police officers were corrupt. Unsurprisingly, just under a third of people in the region who had come into contact with a police officer in the past 12 months had paid a bribe. While citizens of Pakistan were the most likely of any country to be asked for bribes in law and order institutions (around seven in 10), for India the police bribery rate is 54% and for China a low 12%.
India had the highest bribery rates of all the countries surveyed for access to public schools (58%) and healthcare (59%), suggesting serious corruption risks when people try to access these basic services. In comparison these numbers for Pakistan and China for public schools are 9% and 29% respectively. In terms of healthcare, the rate for China is 18% and for Pakistan 11%.
Ilham Mohamed, regional coordinator for Asia at TI feels that people in these regions find it tough to access basic services. “People don’t pay bribes for quicker access to services,” says Mohamed. “The problem is most don’t have access to basic services like healthcare, school or law and order. What the data across Asia Pacific shows is that the poor are disproportionately affected by petty bribery,”says Mohamed.
Mohamed says low civil service salaries coupled by systems that allows little or no access redress mechanisms are main reasons behind corruption. “In other words people with limited resources are further disempowered by an additional hurdle in accessing public services through having to pay bribes. This cycle continues when redress mechanisms are inaccessible,” she says.