These comments came at the launch of Transparency Internationals corruption perceptions index 2002, released in Berlin on Wednesday.
India continues to maintain high levels of corruption, as reflected in the index. It is among the 30 most corrupt countries out of the 102 ranked in the index.
Interestingly, 70 per cent of the countries figuring in the index scored less than five out of a clean score of 10. India stayed at 2.7 as in 2001, only slightly ahead of Pakistan, which scored 2.6 this time marginally better than 2.3 last year. Bangladesh remained at the bottom of the list, though its score has risen overall from only 0.4 in the CPI 2001.
The report states, corrupt political elites and unscrupulous investors were killing sustainable growth in its tracks. Political elites and their cronies continue to take kickbacks at every opportunity. Hand in glove with corrupt business people, they are trapping whole nations in poverty and hampering sustainable development. Corruption is perceived to be dangerously high in poor parts of the world, but also in many countries whose firms invest in developing nations, said the report.
Politicians increasingly pay lip-service to fight against corruption but they fail to act on the clear message of TIs CPI: that they must clamp down on corruption to break the vicious circle of poverty and graft, he said, adding, from illegal logging to blood diamonds, we are seeing the plundering of the earth and its people in an unsustainable way.
Apart from Bangladesh, corruption is perceived to be rampant in Indonesia, Kenya, Angola, Madagascar, Paraguay and Nigeria, all scoring less than two. Countries with a score of higher than nine, with very low levels of perceived corruption, are predominantly rich countries, namely Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Iceland, Singapore and Sweden.
Mr Eigen also dwelt on some changes reflected in the CPI: In the past year, we have seen setbacks to the credibility of democratic rule. In parts of South America, the graft and misrule of political elites have drained confidence in the democratic structures that emerged after the end of military rule. Argentina, where corruption is perceived to have soared, joins Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Haiti and Paraguay with a score of three or less in the CPI 2002.
While some countries in transition from communism - most notably Slovenia, which has a cleaner score than European Union member-countries Italy and Greece - are perceived to be increasingly less corrupt, many countries in the former Soviet Union remain ridden with corruption.
The recent steps by Russian President Vladimir Putin to introduce tax reforms and new laws fighting money-laundering are beginning to show the prospect of a lessening in perceived corruption in Russia, Mr Eigen said, adding, but the CPI 2002 indicates that Russia has a long way to go and remains seriously corrupt, together with Uzbekistan, Georgia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Azerbaijan, all of which score less than three out of 10, he pointed out. The index is prepared based on surveys conducted by the independent institutions.