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Survey Finds Pervasive Corruption in Asia Hindering Progress

A survey by the anti-graft group Transparency International shows that bribery and other forms of corruption are hindering poverty alleviation and hurting public health in Asia by channeling resources away from those who need them.

The survey, released Tuesday, estimated that more than 900 million people in the region had paid bribes in the past year to obtain basic public services like schooling and health care. 

Nearly seven in 10 Indians surveyed had paid such bribes. The heavy reliance of cash payments in corruption was a major factor driving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision in October to scrap as legal tender the 500- and 1,000-rupee notes that made up 86 percent of the country’s currency.

While the rate of corruption was much lower in many countries, such practices were found even in relatively law-abiding nations like Japan, where many surveyed said they believed the government was doing a poor job of preventing corruption.

Only one in five of the 21,861 people surveyed in 16 countries or territories said they believed corruption had declined, while about 40 percent believed it was increasing.

Nearly three-quarters of all Chinese said they believed corruption had grown worse recently, despite the ruling Communist Party’s perennial anti-graft campaigns. The issue remains a problem even in Hong Kong, which has a reputation for clean governance, and where a former leader of the city, Donald Tsang, was sentenced recently to 20 months in prison for misconduct. 

A similar proportion of South Koreans also took a dim view of their government’s handling of graft _ possibly reflecting widespread anger over an influence-peddling scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye and the indictment of Samsung’s de facto chief, Lee Jae-yong, on bribery charges.

Across the region, nearly a third of those surveyed had paid a bribe to a police officer in the previous year, while 22 percent had made such payments for schooling, and 18 percent paid them to access a public hospital.

Berlin-based Transparency International said it conducted the survey of randomly selected people between July 2015 and January 2017. 

The group urged government leaders to deliver on promises to substantially reduce bribery and corruption by 2030 made as part of their commitments to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

That requires increasing transparency of government operations and adopting a “zero-tolerance” policy, including in police forces viewed as widely corrupt, it said.