Approximately 900 million – or just over one in four – people living in 16 countries in Asia Pacific, including some of its biggest economies are estimated to have paid a bribe to access public services, according to a new public opinion poll from the anti-corruption movement Transparency International.
Transparency International spoke to nearly 22,000 people about their recent experiences with corruption for People and Corruption: Asia Pacific, part of the Global Corruption Barometer series.
The results show lawmakers across the region need to do much more to support whistleblowers; governments must keep promises to combat corruption, including their commitments to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
In China, nearly three-quarters of the people surveyed said corruption has increased over the last three years, suggesting people do not see the major offensive on corruption is working.
Only one in five people surveyed thought the level of corruption had decreased, while half of people polled said their government was doing a bad job fighting corruption.
“Governments must do more to deliver on their anti-corruption commitments. It’s time to stop talking and act. Millions of people are forced to pay bribes for public services and it is the poor who are most vulnerable,” said José Ugaz, chair of Transparency International.
Thirty-eight percent of the poorest people surveyed said they paid a bribe, the highest proportion of any income group.
“Without proper law enforcement corruption thrives. Bribery is not a small crime, it takes food off the table, it prevents education, it impedes proper healthcare and ultimately it can kill,” Ugaz said.
Police top the list of public services most often demanding a bribe; just under a third of people who had come into contact with a police officer in the last 12 months saying they paid a bribe.
People said that the most important action to stop corruption is speaking out or refusing to pay bribes. But more than one in five said they felt powerless to help fight corruption.
Transparency International recommends:
• Governments integrate anti-corruption targets into all Sustainable Development Goals including hunger, poverty, education, health, gender equality and climate action, and develop mechanisms to reduce corruption risks.
• Legislatures adopt and enforce comprehensive legislation to protect whistleblowers, based on prevailing international standards, including those developed by Transparency International.
• Authorities prevent and sanction bribe paying/taking to end impunity related to bribery.
• Anti-corruption agencies engage with and encourage large numbers of citizens who are willing to refuse paying bribes and report corruption.