Instead of being in top 30 of TI CPI in 2020, Malaysia faces risk of being overtaken by China and even Indonesia in both TI CPI ranking and score

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and CEO of Performance Management Delivery Unit (Pemandu) Datuk Seri Idris Jala is ecstatic about Malaysia’s rise from 54 to 53 in Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) this year, declaring that Pemandu is aiming for the country to be in the top 30 by 2020.

Yes, Malaysia’s TI CPI ranking this year has improved by one step, placed 53 out of 177 countries compared to last year’s 54th ranking, while the TI CPI score has improved to 50/100 compared to last year’s 49/100.

However, the ineluctable fact is that for the fifth consecutive year, the Najib premiership (2009-2013) has registered a lower TI CPI ranking than under the two previous Prime Ministers, Tun Mahathir and Tun Abdullah.

This is illustrated by the following chart on TI CPI 1995-2013:

Best ranking Best score Worst ranking Worst score
Mahathir 23(1995) 5.32/10 (1996) 37 (2003) 4.8/10 (2000)
Abdullah 39(2004) 5.1/10 (2005/7/8) 47 (2008) 5/10 (2004/6)
Najib 53 (2013) 50/100 (2013) 60 (2011) 4.3/10 (2011)

In a sense, the TI CPI 2013 is a vindication of Mahathir’s boast two days ago that corruption is worse now than during his 22 years as Prime Minister (although Abdullah can also make the same boast about his five-year premiership).

However, Mahathir had blissfully ignored another reality – that it was under his 22-year premiership that Malaysia started the slide and plunge into the morass of corruption, as under the first three Prime Ministers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn, corruption was never a major problem and was well under control.

In fact, until the seventies, the biggest scandal in Parliament was the RM65 million Bank Rakyat scandal which I debated in Parliament in 1979.

Since the eighties, corruption and financial scandals increased by leaps and bounds from the RM2.5 billion Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF) scandal, the RM600 million Maminco tin-buying scandal and the RM1.5 billion Co-operatives Finance scandal in the 80s, to the RM30 billion Bank Negara foreign exchange scandal and RM11 billion Perwaja scandal in the 90s, and current multi-billion ringgit Scorpene and defence procurement scandals and the RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone scandal.

The root of corruption – money politics in government parties – instead of being curbed has taken on wings, as it has been estimated by UMNO inner circles that it takes more than RM10 million to win a seat as UMNO Vice President and more than a million ringgit to win as a UMNO supreme council member.

Massive money politics is not also spared in MCA and MIC party elections – till the MCA President accepted it as a fact in MCA party elections when he advised MCA delegates in the forthcoming MCA party elections to emulate the voters in the 13GE by “Take Money; Don’t give votes” (as emblazoned in a Chinese newspaper headline).

Studying the TI CPI 2013 ranking and score for the 177 countries and the 19-year series of TI CPI from 1995-2013, there is no reason or ground for anyone to believe that the target of Malaysia being ranked in the top 30 of TI CPI in 2020 is a realistic or achievable one.

In fact, come 2020, Malaysia races the risk of being overtaken by China and even Indonesia in both TI CPI ranking and score, when in the first TI CPI in 1995, Malaysia was ranked No. 23 out of 41 countries with a score of 5.28 out of 10, while China and Indonesia were ranked as the last two bottom countries with CPI score of 2.16 and 1.94 out of 10 respectively (i.e. hovering in the lowest 90 percentile of the CPI score).

If Malaysia is to occupy the top 30 percentile of the CPI index in 2020, we must achieve at least the top 35 percentile of the CPI score and not just 50/100, as the scores of the five countries ranked from 26th to 30th in the TI CPI 2013 index are Austria UAE 69/100, Estonia Qatar 68/100 and Botswana 64/100.

However, in the last 19 years, Malaysia achieved the dubious distinction as one of the countries which had been downgraded both in TI CPI ranking and score, but had lost out to countries which had lower CPI ranking and score in 1995 and is also now at risk of being overtaken by countries including China and Indonesia which had been at the bottom of TI CPI in 1995.

For instance, Malaysia ranked No. 23 with CPI score of 5.28/10 in 1995, was ahead of Taiwan (Rank 25 Score 5.08), Spain (R 26 Sc 4.35), South Korea (R 27 Sc 4.29) Hungary (R 28 Sc 4.12) and Turkey (R29 Sc 4.10) but in the 2013 TI CPI have lost out to Taiwan (R 36 Sc 61), Spain (R 40 Sc 59), South Korea (R 46 Sc 55), Hungary (R 47 Sc 54) and been caught up by Turkey (R 53 Sc 50).

Unlike Malaysia, which has achieved a lower percentile score in the past 19 years, i.e. 5.28/10 in 1995 to 50/100 in 2013, all other countries in Asia have improved on their percentile score in the past 19 years from 1995 to 2013, eg. Thailand from 2.79/10 to 35/100; India from 2.78/10 to 36/100; Philippines from 2.77/10 to 36/100; Pakistan from 2.25/10 to 28/100; China from 2.16/10 to 40/100 and Indonesia from 1.94/10 to 32/100.

What should concern all Malaysians is that from these trends, Malaysia runs the risk of being overtaken by both Indonesia and China before 2020 in the annual TI CPI both in ranking and score unless Malaysia quickly buck up and show its seriousness on the anti-corruption front.

How are Malaysians going to hold their heads high when the world perceive Malaysia as being even more corrupt than Indonesia and China before the end of the decade? Is this the fate awaiting Malaysia in the TI CPI ranking and score before 2020?

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah