Manila (AsiaNews) – In Indonesia, South-East Asia’s most corrupt country, “Corruption has become a charge [. . .] used by corrupt people to protect themselves and to stifle reform," said the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) in a report released yesterday. The Hong Kong-based consulting firm, which specialises in strategic business information and analysis for companies doing business in the countries in East and Southeast Asia, found that corruption is pervasive in Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Using a 1-to-10 scale, it scored the level of corruption among elected officials and public servants. Its informants are some 2,000 expatriate businessmen in 16 countries. Last year, it found that Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong were the least corrupt countries.
"The whole fight against corruption is in danger of being corrupted," the PERC report said. The whole process could end up being taken over by corrupt politicians.
To illustrate its point, the consulting firm focused on Indonesia’s Bank Century, which was rescued from collapse with US$ 716 million of taxpayers’ money.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and members of his cabinet have come under investigation by parliament for the rescue plan. He came to power in 2004 and was re-elected in 2009 on an anti-corruption and economic reform platform, which gained widespread international support. For PERC, the charges against him by opposition politicians are a clear example of how the old establishment is using corruption to stay in power.
Corruption is one of the region’s main problems. In countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, it affects not only the public sector and big banks but also local government, resulting in billions of dollars wasted. According to World Bank data, the Filipino state lost US$ 4 billion in 2008 in kickbacks and waste.
“In the Philippines, corruption spread quickly because of the selfishness of big public and private companies, who represent the bulk of production and employment in the country,” said Crispulo Acuna, professor at the Catholic University of Santo Tomas in Manila.
“If the public good was the priority, countries like Indonesia and the Philippines would be the least corrupt in Asia.”