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Four Asian Countries Considered to Be Among Most Corrupt  - 2004-10-21

Four developing Asian countries have ranked among the most corrupt in the world. A global corruption watchdog group says corruption is undermining the fight against poverty in the developing world.

The Berlin-based corruption watchdog organization Transparency International says Pakistan, Indonesia, Burma and Bangladesh ranked worst among the 15 countries perceived to be most corrupt.

These Asian countries scored less than three points in the global survey of businessmen, where 10 points mean a country is highly clean and zero, highly corrupt.

Bangladesh, together with the Caribbean nation of Haiti, placed at the bottom of the 146-country survey.

Corruption is among Bangladesh's biggest problems and this is not the first time the country has ranked at the bottom of this yearly survey. Bangladesh has been trying to correct the negative perception. Parliament passed a law earlier this year forming an independent anti-corruption agency.

Transparency International's Asia-Pacific Director Peter Rooke says it is still too early to see the agency's impact.

"It's a positive step forward but it needs to have real teeth, real independence and in particular, it needs the financial resources that would enable its job effectively because obviously it's a huge task," Mr. Rooke says.

Transparency International says corruption impedes efforts to reduce poverty in developing Asia, where millions of people earn less than a dollar a day.

The group notes that oil-exporting nations, including Indonesia, have low scores, reflecting the level of fraud plaguing the oil industry.

The Asia Development Bank, a non-profit lender and financial advisory body, says corruption can cut a country's gross domestic product by as much as one-sixth.

On the brighter side, surveyed businessmen ranked New Zealand as the world's second cleanest country. Singapore also ranks among the top 10 cleanest nations in the survey.