900 million people in the Asia Pacific have bribed officials – watchdog
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900 million people in the Asia Pacific have bribed officials – watchdog

APPROXIMATELY 900 million – or just over one in four – people living in 16 countries in the Asia Pacific are estimated to have paid a bribe to access public services, according to a new public opinion poll.

Anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI), collected data from nearly 22,000 people in the region – including those in its biggest economies – about their recent experiences with corruption for its People and Corruption: Asia Pacific report, which is part of the Global Corruption Barometer series.

The watchdog said, in China, nearly three-quarters of the people surveyed said corruption had increased over the last three years, suggesting people did not see the government’s major offensive on corruption was working.

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Transparency International chairman José Ugaz said only one in five people surveyed thought the level of corruption had decreased, while half of the 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,” Ugaz said in a statement on Monday.

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 and impedes proper healthcare.Ultimately, it can kill,” Ugaz said.

SEE ALSO: China: Govt tightens rules after anti-corruption staff busted with graft

Police top the list of public services most often demanding a bribe. Just under a third of people who had come into contact with police in the last 12 months said they had paid a bribe.

People said 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, according to the watchdog.

The report also shows lawmakers across the region need to do much more to support whistleblowers.

It shows governments need to make more efforts to keep promises to combat corruption, especially those commitments needed to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

The watchdog recommended 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 (must) adopt and enforce comprehensive legislation to protect whistleblowers, based on prevailing international standards, including those developed by Transparency International,” the report said.

“Authorities (must) prevent and sanction bribe-paying … to end impunity related to bribery.”