The United States has cracked back into the top 20 on Transparency International’s just-released 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index, which also sees positive increases from lower-ranked countries such as Russia and Nigeria.
The United States, which sits at 19, fell to 24 last year after dropping to 20 in 2010. The United States earned an individual score of 73, with a score of 100 indicating that the country is nearly free of corruption.
Transparency International, which has retooled its methodology for 2012, said two-thirds of the 176 countries had an individual score below 50 this year, putting them closer to the “highly corrupt” rating of zero.
In the overall rankings, Russia rose to 133 from 143 last year. Despite the increase, the country has an individual score of 28, which indicates a high corruption perception. Nigeria, which had tied with Russia in 2011, is now 139 overall, though it has an individual score of 27.
Because the index has an updated methodology, individual country scores from 2012 cannot be compared with previous years. Last year’s list ranked 183 countries.
The index is an aggregate of numerous data sources, and in earlier versions, perceptions of corruption in each country were determined relative to other countries, making each country’s score dependent on changes in scores of countries near it on the ranking.
With the update, the individual scores are calculated using raw scores from data sources, which include the Transparency International Bribe Payers Survey 2011, World Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment 2011 and 11 other sources. Only countries with data from three sources are included.
Transparency International notes that countries that saw leadership struggles in Europe, Asia and the Middle East saw their rankings drop. Greece, for instance, dropped from 80 in 2011 to 94 this year. Syria was ranked 129 last year but has fallen now to 144.
“Governments need to integrate anti-corruption actions into all public decision making,” Transparency International Chair Huguette Labelle said. “Priorities include better rules on lobbying and political financing, making public spending and contracting more transparent and making public bodies more accountable to people.”
The list is topped by Denmark, Finland and New Zealand in a three-way tie. The countries earned individual scores of 90. The list’s low-end has a tie of Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia in last place, each with individual scores of eight.
The United Kingdom dropped overall from 16 last year and Japan dropped from 14. Equatorial Guinea, which has a bad reputation for public corruption, rose from 172 overall last year to 163 on the new list.
Transparency International notes that Eurozone countries hit hard by the world economic crises haven’t underperformed this year.