Barbados has made a slight improvement in the perception of corruption, making it the least corrupt of Caribbean countries that were ranked by a global anti-graft watchdog.
In Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report, released Thursday, Barbados now ranks 29th out of 180 countries in this year’s report with a score of 64 out of 100.
It’s edged up one spot from its 2019 ranking of 30th out of 180 countries with a score of 62 out of 100, behind the Bahamas who was ranked at 29th.
This time around, Barbados swapped places with the Bahamas at 30th and a score of 63.
A score of 100 indicates that a country is very clean, while a score of zero indicates high corruption.
Other Caribbean countries included in the ranking were St Vincent and the Grenadines with a score of 59 to ranked 40th; St Lucia (56) received a ranking of 45th; Dominica (55) 48th; Grenada (53) 52nd; and Jamaica (44) ranked 69th.
Among the larger countries in the region Guyana (41) was ranked 83rd while Trinidad and Tobago (40) received a ranking of 86th; Suriname (38) 94th; Dominican Republic (28) 137th; and Haiti with a score of 18, ranking at just ten places from the global bottom.
The report found persistent corruption is undermining health care systems and contributing to democratic backsliding amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it argues that the least corrupt nations have tended to produce the best response to the virus.
Transparency International chair Delia Ferreira Rubio warned that COVID-19 was not just a health and economic crisis, but also a corruption crisis that countries were failing to effectively manage.
“The past year has tested governments like no other in memory, and those with higher levels of corruption have been less able to meet the challenge,” said Rubio. But even those at the top of the CPI must urgently address their role in perpetuating corruption at home and abroad.”
The 2020 edition of the CPI ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, drawing on 13 expert assessments and surveys of business executives.
The document pointed out that similar to other regions, the Americas took extraordinary measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the forms of various states of emergency that restricted civil rights.
Transparency International’s report said: “These restrictions curtailed freedoms of speech and assemble, weakened institutional checks and balances, and reduced space for civil society.
“Across the region, citizens struggle to access reliable and up-to-date information on health statistics and emergency procurement. A major challenge facing the region is ensuring that funds and programmes for COVID-19 relief are not lost to corruption and reach the intended recipients. Failure to deliver this aid risks increased social discontent, stokes harmful populism, and creates still greater poverty and inequality.”
The authors of the 34-page document also warned that Governments must guarantee that the development, purchase and distribution of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines were transparent and equitable.
“It is crucial that governments permit civil society organizations and the press to function as watchdogs, holding politicians and businesses to account,” it added.