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EU austerity breeding corruption

A new survey published by Transparency International has revealed that Greece and the other austerity hit EU nation’s has slipped dramatically in the league table of the least corrupt countries. Ireland, Italy, Spain and Greece all fell with the Greeks being branded the most corrupt in the European Union.

In its fifth year of recession and crippled by austerity Greece plummeted to 94th place, ranking it below Liberia, Columbia and equal pegging with Senegal. Greece’s rank makes the country the most corrupt in the European Union. The sheer scale of Tax evasion, bribes and general government incompetence all contributed to its poor scoring. Despite Prime Minister Antonis Samaras saying that he would crack down on tax evasion and fraud he has made little impact. Policy makers are trying to fix the broken tax system and crackdown on tax evaders with little success. Currently it is estimated that the amount of total unpaid taxes amounts to around €42 billion.

Greece in September froze bank accounts, shares and properties in 121 tax evasion cases, with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras saying that “tolerance of tax evaders, no matter how high up they are, is over.”

“Transparency International has consistently warned Europe to address corruption risks in the public sector to tackle the financial crisis, calling for strengthened efforts to corruption-proof public institutions,” the Berlin-based group said in a statement accompanying its annual report.

Italy was also singled out for criticism after criminal investigations this year toppled the regional governments of Lombardy and Lazio the regions home to Rome and Milan. Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi whose party members ran the two defunct regional administrations, was convicted by a Milan court in October on unrelated tax fraud charges and sentenced to four years in prison. Berlusconi, a billionaire media magnate, remains free as his lawyers prepare an appeal.

Another European nation that took a surprise drop was Austria. The country has been hit by a series of big corruption cases, many linked to the previous government that ruled from 200 to 2007. In Austria’s case corruption was only exposed because of the Eurocrisis.

Remarkably the United Kingdom ranked 17th on the chart despite suffering from a succession of corrupt governments and scandals.The MPs expenses scandal, the last Labour government suspect handling of the economy and the latest Media scandals did little to affect its ranking. The USA is ranked 19th.

The least corrupt nations were listed as New Zealand, Denmark and Finland. For the entire index look here http://www.transparency.org/cpi2012/results

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