FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert expects Trinidad and Tobago’s 2020 ranking on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) to improve, with the coming on stream of procurement legislation, tentatively by the end of March.

This country ranked 85th on the CPI in 2019, dropping seven places compared to 2018.

The CPI scores and ranks 180 countries around the world based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be.

The scores reflect the view of experts or surveys of business people.

On a scale of zero to 100, with 100 being very clean and zero being highly corrupt, T&T’s score was 40 in 2019, dropping from 41 in 2018.

At a media conference last week, Imbert contended that the “misperception” that Government was about to remove government-to-government arrangements and public/private partnerships directly from under the purview of the Office of the Procurement Regulation may have contributed to T&T’s 2019 score.

“The regulations are now before the Cabinet and I will expect that by the end of March we will implement the law. Assuming that this thing is based on perception, our index should go up,” he told Express Business.

This year, Transparency International’s research highlighted the relationship between politics, money and corruption.

“Countries with stronger enforcement of campaign finance regulations have lower levels of corruption, as measured by the CPI,” noted Transparency International’s managing director Patricia Moreira in the report.

“Countries where campaign finance regulations are comprehensive and systematically enforced have an average score of 70 on the CPI, whereas countries where such regulations either don’t exist or are poorly enforced score an average of just 34 and 35 respectively. Sixty per cent of countries that significantly improved their CPI scores since 2012 also strengthened their enforcement of campaign finance regulations,” she said.

Responding to the CPI last week, Attorney General Faris Al Rawi said the Campaign Finance Reform Bill was before Cabinet and there would be a special Cabinet meeting to treat with it.

More open consultations needed

According to Moreira, when policymakers listen only to wealthy or politically connected individuals and groups, they often do so at the expense of the citizens they serve.

She said countries with broader and more open consultation processes score an average of 61 on the CPI.

By contrast, she noted, where there is little to no consultation, the average score is just 32.

“A vast majority of countries that significantly declined their CPI scores since 2012 do not engage the most relevant political, social and business actors in political decision-making. Countries with lower CPI scores also have a higher concentration of political power among wealthy citizens,“ she noted.

She outlined that across the board, there is a concerning popular perception that rich people buy elections, both among some of the lowest-scoring countries on the CPI, as well as among certain higher-scoring countries, such as the United States.

To end corruption and restore trust in politics, Transparency International has recommended that governments:

- Reinforce checks and balances and promote separation of powers.

- Tackle preferential treatment to ensure budgets and public services aren’t driven by personal connections or biased towards special interests;

- Control political financing to prevent excessive money and influence in politics;

- Manage conflicts of interest and address “revolving doors”;

- Regulate lobbying activities by promoting open and meaningful access to decision-making;

- Strengthen electoral integrity and prevent and sanction misinformation campaigns;

- Empower citizens

and protect activists, whistleblowers and journalists;

Guyana among

most improved

Transparency noted that more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of only 43.

It said since 2012, only 22 countries significantly improved their scores, including Estonia, Greece and Guyana.

With a score of 40, Guyana was identified as one of the significant improvers on the CPI since 2012.

“While there is still much work to do, the government is demonstrating political will to hold former politicians accountable for the misuse of state resources,” Transparency International said.

The anti-corruption body said 21 countries significantly declined on the index, including Australia, Canada and Nicaragua.

The organisation’s research shows several of the most advanced economies cannot afford to be complacent if they are to keep up their anti-corruption momentum.

It outlined that four G7 countries scored lower than last year: Canada (-4), France (-3), the UK (-3) and the US (-2).

Germany and Japan have seen no improvement, while Italy gained one point.

(The G7 (or Group of Seven) is an organisation made up of the world’s seven largest so-called advanced economies.)

According to the 2019 CPI, the least corrupt countries are:

1. Denmark

2. New Zealand

3. Finland

4. Singapore

5. Sweden

6. Switzerland

7. Norway

8. the Netherlands

9. Germany

10. Luxembourg

The top 10 most corrupt countries, according to the CPI, were:

1. Somalia

2. South Sudan

3. Syria

4. Yemen

5. Venezuela

6. Sudan

7. Equatorial Guinea

8. Afghanistan

9. North Korea

10. Libya

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