Israel has improved to 36th from 39th place in Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index, still below where it ought to be, the group's CEO for Israel said Tuesday. The index ranks 177 countries and territories.
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Among the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Israel came in 23rd place.
“The figures show that, in relative terms, Israel is just in the middle of the index without any significant change in recent years,” said Transparency International-Israel CEO Galia Sagi. "With respect to OECD countries, Israel is consistently ranked in the bottom half - not where we would like to see it.”
In the index, a score of 0 means a country is perceived as highly corrupt, while 100 is a perfect score.
Scores are based on interviews, surveys and studies by international research institutes that reflect the views of businessmen and policy experts on each country's public sector. Israel’s score this year was 61, compared with 60 in 2012. Its score has barely budged in recent years.
Former State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, Transparency International-Israel chairman, said corruption not only prevents the fair distribution of wealth, it has implications for public trust.
"The Israeli government must work to increase transparency," he said, adding that the minutes of cabinet meetings should be made public, and that there should be special ethics guidelines for ministers and deputy ministers.
"Complaints regarding public corruption must be addressed immediately and in full coordination with law enforcement authorities," Lindenstrauss said.
“Unfortunately, there are still weeds of public corruption that must be uprooted immediately with a heavy hand and severe punishment.”
In the annual index, only two Middle Eastern countries, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, were perceived as less corrupt than Israel.
The countries perceived as least corrupt were Denmark and New Zealand, which both scored 91. They were followed by Finland and Sweden at 89, Norway and Singapore at 86, and Switzerland at 85.
The countries perceived as most corrupt were Somalia, Afghanistan and North Korea – all at 8. Just above them were Sudan, South Sudan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Among OECD countries, Mexico was perceived as most corrupt.
“The top performers clearly reveal how transparency supports accountability and can stop corruption,” said Transparency International's chairwoman, Huguette Labelle.
Israel hasn't always been considered one of the West's more corrupt countries. When the country became part of the Transparency International index in 1996, it was ranked 14th. By 2003, it had slipped to 21st; in 2004 it came in 34th.
Earlier this year, Transparency International published a survey showing that 73 percent of Israelis believed that the government was ruled by insiders promoting special interests.