Levels of corruption in Argentina have significantly improved in recent years, watchdog group Transparency International underlined in its annual corruption report Tuesday, although the country failed to improve its ranking of 85th place as in previous years.
Argentina received a 40 on the group's 'Corruption Perceptions Index,' where 100 is very clean and zero is very corrupt. That was a slight improvement from 2017's score of 39, yet Argentina failed to improve on its ranking from the previous year. Nonetheless, the nation still ranks well below the the average "flawed democracy," in part thanks to improvements in its ranking witnessed in the two preceding years.
The Corruption Perceptions Index for 2018 showed more than two-thirds of countries scoring below 50. Full democracies scored an average of 75 on the corruption index, flawed democracies averaged 49, and autocratic regimes averaged 30, the organisation said.
In the headline takeaway from the report, the United States slid four points on the previous year, dropping out of the list of top 20 countries for the first time since 2011.
Argentina’s score has improved five points since 2012, making it one of just 20 nations that have significantly improved their scores since 2012. Sixteen nations have declined significantly in that same timeframe, including Chile, which dropped from 72 to 67.
Brazil dropped two points since last year to 35, also earning its lowest CPI score in seven years. Alongside promises to end corruption, the country’s new president Jair Bolsonaro has made it clear that he will rule with a strong hand, threatening many of the democratic milestones achieved by the country, Transparency International wrote in a press release.
"Our research makes a clear link between having a healthy democracy and successfully fighting public sector corruption," said Delia Ferreira Rubio, the head of Transparency. "Corruption is much more likely to flourish where democratic foundations are weak and, as we have seen in many countries, where undemocratic and populist politicians can use it to their advantage."
Countries like Hungary and Turkey are growing more corrupt as they become more autocratic, and threats to the American system of checks and balances have knocked the United States out of the top 20 "cleanest" countries, according to a closely watched annual survey released Tuesday.
With a score of 71, the US lost four points over 2017 and dropped out of the top 20 nations for the first time since 2011.
"A four point drop in the CPI score is a red flag and comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balance, as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power," the Berlin-based organization said.
Hungary dropped eight points and Turkey nine over the past five years, to scores of 46 and 41, respectively.
Venezuela’s rating was unchanged from 2017, and has not decreased significantly in the past five years. With a score of 18, the country is tied with Iraq for 168th place.
Low ratings reflect the "deterioration of rule of law and democratic institutions, as well as a rapidly shrinking space for civil society and independent media," the organization said.
Overall, Denmark led the survey as the least corrupt nation, with a score of 88, followed by New Zealand, Finland, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland. Rounding out the top group were Norway, Netherlands, Canada, Luxembourg, Germany and Britain.
Somalia was rated the most corrupt with a score of 10, followed by Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, North Korea, Sudan, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Afghanistan and Libya.
"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," TI's managing director Patricia Moreira said.
As part of its recommendations, the group urged governments to stand up for a free press and support civil society organisations that encourage public oversight over government spending.
The index is calculated using 13 different data sources that provide perceptions of public sector corruption from business people and country experts. These include the African Development Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment, the World Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment, the World Economic Forum Executive Opinion Survey and the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index Expert Survey.
Argentina's own local branch aligned with Transparency International is non-profit foundation Poder Ciudadano.