MANILA, Philippines ? The Philippines is ranked as the fourth most corrupt country in Southeast Asia out of 16 surveyed by over 2,000 expatriate businessmen, according to an annual poll.
In a report released Tuesday, the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) said the Philippines scored 8.06 on a scale of 0 to 10 ? with zero as the best possible score, indicating the lowest level of corruption among politicians and civil servants.
Indonesia is the most corrupt in Southeast Asia, at 9.27, with Cambodia, 9.10 and Vietnam, 8.07 ranked second and third respectively, according to PERC.
Singapore remains as the least corrupt country in Southeast Asia with a score of 1.42, followed by Australia with 2.28 and Hong Kong with 2.67, PERC said.
The 16 countries surveyed from the least corrupt to the most corrupt are:
1. Singapore, 1.42
2. Australia, 2.28
3. Hong Kong, 2.67
4. United States, 3.42
5. Japan, 3.49
6. Macau, 4.96
7. South Korea, 5.98
8. Taiwan, 6.28
9. Malaysia, 6.47
10. China, 6.52
11. India, 7.18
12. Thailand, 7.60
13. Philippines, 8.06
14. Vietnam, 8.07
15. Cambodia, 9.10
16. Indonesia, 9.27
Indonesia was also the most corrupt country in 2009 although it had a marginally better score at 8.32, according to PERC.
The Hong Kong-based consultancy said Indonesian lawmakers' call for a criminal investigation into the Yudhoyono government's bailout of Bank Century in 2008 reflected attempts by a corrupt establishment to maintain the status quo.
"Corruption has become a charge being used by corrupt people to protect themselves and to stifle reform," PERC said.
"The whole fight against corruption is in danger of being corrupted," it said.
Vice President Boediono and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who both authorized the $724 million bailout, have consistently ranked as among the most respected figures in Yudhoyono's Cabinet among foreign investors.
The investigation into their decision to rescue Bank Century may cost them their jobs, but "is entirely manipulated and entirely political", PERC said.
Yudhoyono, a liberal ex-general who first came to power in 2004, was re-elected in 2009 on promises to root out corruption, which riddles every aspect of Indonesian public life, from the courts to the customs office.
Hong Kong slipped a place from a year ago, with PERC saying questionable tactics by powerful property developers in the Chinese territory likely dragged it down.
"There are still criticisms of some practices, particularly in the real-estate sector, concerning tactics used by developers that, to be generous, play on a lack of transparency that would not be allowed in many other markets," PERC said.
"This could account for why a number of perceptions this year for Hong Kong are slightly worse than last year. However, overall Hong Kong has maintained its favorable ranking in our survey," it said.
The United States was included for comparison purposes, the PERC said.
Meanwhile, PERC was not surprised to find China on the top-half of the most corrupt countries in the region. "Measuring the level of corruption [in China] is nothing more than guesswork," PERC said.
"What is fairly clear is that the problem of corruption is more severe at the local level of government and business, particularly state-owned enterprises, than at the national level, although there are plenty examples of graft at the national level too," it said.
PERC's poll was conducted from December to February, and involved 2,147 mid-level and senior Asian and expatriate business executives working in the 16 countries.