Lebanon was ranked 138th in the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index released by Transparency International on Tuesday, thus dropping five points since last year.
The index, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
Lebanon has being maintaining a score of 28 since 2015.
The 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Lebanon among "the countries to watch" in the coming years, given that it will remain in the spotlight due to its geographic and economic status.
"In Lebanon, recent elections raised concerns over political party financing and mismanagement of the electoral process. Our chapter, the Lebanese Transparency Association, worked to highlight these deficiencies among government officials and the public. Unfortunately, six months after the elections, the prime minister has failed to form a new government in a highly polarised country," the report pointed out.
"Political corruption and conflict of interest remain among the main challenges to any improvement in Lebanon. According to our recent report, Lebanon: Progress towards SDG 16, the country’s legal framework and political party financing regulations lack some crucial components, including transparency and accountability standards," it added.
With a score of 70, United Arab Emirates (UAE) leads the Middle East and Northern Africa region on the index, followed by Qatar (62).
At the very bottom of the region, Syria scores 13, followed by Yemen (14) and Libya (17). Both Syria and Yemen are also in the bottom five of the entire index.
With an average score of 39, the Middle East and Northern Africa region falls behind both the Americas and Asia Pacific regions (average score for both: 44) and does only slightly better than Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score: 35) and Sub-Saharan Africa (average score: 32)
"In a region where any attempt at democratisation proves an impossible mission, civil liberties are under suppressive state control and the social contract between states and their citizens has been broken for decades, it is no surprise that corruption remains stubbornly high," the index noted.
"Political corruption remains a central challenge, despite the work of many governments across the region to focus their national priorities on fighting corruption and increasing transparency," it stressed. "In many Arab governments, powerful individuals have actively influenced government policies and diverted public funds and state assets for their own self-interest and enrichment at the expense of citizens."
"This reduces anti-corruption efforts to merely ink on paper, where laws pass, but are rarely enforced or implemented."
The index reveals that the continued failure of most countries to significantly control corruption is contributing to a crisis of democracy around the world.
“With many democratic institutions under threat across the globe – often by leaders with authoritarian or populist tendencies – we need to do more to strengthen checks and balances and protect citizens’ rights,” said Patricia Moreira, Managing Director of Transparency International. “Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions and, in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption.”
More than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of only 43. Since 2012, only 20 countries have significantly improved their scores, including Estonia and Côte D’Ivoire, and 16 have significantly declined, including, Australia, Chile and Malta.
Denmark and New Zealand top the Index with 88 and 87 points, respectively. Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria are at the bottom of the index, with 10, 13 and 13 points, respectively. The highest scoring region is Western Europe and the European Union, with an average score of 66, while the lowest scoring regions are Sub-Saharan Africa (average score 32) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score 35).
In the last seven years, only 20 countries significantly improved their CPI scores, including Estonia, Senegal, Guyana and Côte D’Ivoire.
Equally troubling, 16 countries significantly decreased their scores, including Australia, Chile, Malta, Hungary and Turkey.
With a score of 71, the United States lost four points since last year, dropping out of the top 20 countries on the CPI for the first time since 2011.