Not all governments operate with the best interests of their citizens as the top priority. People in power can have a hard time resisting the temptation to use that power for their own gain, and many public servants in many countries have been caught up in political scandals and corruption. In fact, some countries have such a history of corruption that it has caused political unrest between the country's government and its citizens.
Introducing the Corruption Perceptions Index
In an effort to shine a light on corruption and initiate changes for the better, the organization Transparency.org has created the Corruption Perceptions Index, which uses expert assessments and opinion surveys to rank countries based upon their perceived level of corruption. Initially launched in 1995, the CPI defines corruption as “the misuse of public power for private benefit.”
The 2021 CPI (released January 2022) ranked 180 countries on a scale from 0 to 100. The lower the score, the more corrupt a country is considered to be.
The Top 11 Most Corrupt Countries in the World (2020 Corruption Perceptions Index):
CPI score on a scale of most (0) to least (100) corrupt
- South Sudan - 11
- Somalia - 13 (tie)
- Syria - 13 (tie)
- Venezuela - 14
- Afghanistan - 16 (tie)
- North Korea - 16 (tie)
- Yemen - 16 (tie)
- Equatorial Guinea - 17 (tie)
- Libya - 17 (tie)
- Burundi - 19 (tie)
- Congo (Dem. Republic of) - 19 (tie)
- Turkmenistan - 19 (tie)
Although Somalia had been ranked as the most corrupt country in the world for successive years, the country has been making incremental improvements, scoring 9 in 2019, 12 in 2020, and 13 in 2021. Moving in the other direction is South Sudan, whose score drops from 12 in 2020 to 11 in 2021. This gives South Sudan sole possession of the top spot on the list of most corrupt countries in the world. Third place on the "most corrupt" list goes to Syria, with a score of 13 out of 100 (one lower than the previous year).
Ultimately, the average score on the 2021 CPI was 43/100 for the tenth year in a row, and 2/3 of countries scored lower than 50/100. Clearly, corruption—or at least the impression of it—continues to be a problem all over the world.
Alternate views on national corruption
However, other studies provide different rankings. The 2021 Best Countries rankings from U.S. News and World Report, BAV Group, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania surveyed more than 17,000 citizens all over the world. Of the 78 countries featured in the survey, Iraq was chosen as 2021's most corrupt nation. Colombia and Mexico slotted in second and third place.