Greece’s crushing financial crisis, and punishing austerity measures are making corruption worse in the country, with more people driven to tax evasion and to other ways of trying to survive, the annual graft ranking of Transparency International has found.
Greece is now the most corrupt country in the European Union, even behind Mafia-dominated Italy, falling from 80th to 94th on the ignominious list, highlighting once again the county’s culture of wrongdoing with near-impunity. Most every sector is affected, with professionals, auto mechanics, civil servants, lawyers, and others asking for bribes in return for services.
Greece now ranks below the drug cartel haven of Colombia and the corruption-riddled African country of Liberia on TI’s chart.
“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.
The debt crisis in the Eurozone has led to more scandals such as tax-crime allegations in Greece and Italian corruption investigations that brought down two regional governments. Austria slid nine levels in the ranking to 25th, tying with Ireland, which dropped from 19th place after slipping five rungs last year. Italy, the second-worst ranked among euro-area nations, fell another three to 72rd place.
Denmark, Finland and New Zealand held on to their top slots in the ranking, while Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia remained at the bottom, in 174th place. The index has become a benchmark gauge of perceptions of a country’s corruption, an assessment of risks used by analysts and investors.
Hurting Greece further is the unwillingness and inability of the government to go after tax evaders while imposing more pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions on workers, the elderly and the poor. Unpaid taxes are at almost $70 billion and the “fakelaki,” culture of giving envelopes stuffed with bribes remains rife.
The U.S. jumped five points on the index, now ranking 19th, two points behind the U.K., which slid a slot. Russia, which has the worst score of any country in the Group of 20 most- industrialized countries, climbed 10 spots to 133.