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Report: Corruption in Poor Countries Threatens Fight Against Poverty

A group monitoring corruption levels around the world says illegal practices in poor countries are threatening the fight against poverty. In its just released report, Transparency International says foreign aid must be more focused and more carefully monitored to ensure it goes where intended. VOA's Sonja Pace has details from London.

The Berlin-based Transparency International looked at indicators in 180 countries to measure perceptions of doing business or delivering aid there.

Sweden, Denmark and New Zealand ranked at the top - as least corrupt and most transparent. Somalia and Iraq were among those at the bottom.

Speaking with VOA from Berlin, Casey Kelso said the continuing conflict and rule by warlords in Somalia undermine any capacity at governance or development. "Everyone that tries to do any work there, any sort of assistance that goes in has to be monitored very carefully because there is a cut for everyone to pocket it instead of it going into the education, the health, the clean water that people need there," he said.

Kelso says Iraq is also widely perceived as still very corrupt and a difficult place to do business, with lingering questions about where the money goes. "Where is the oil going, how many bribes must be paid, the lack of clarity and transparency in assigning contracts out for establishing [everything] from new schools to pipelines to electricity generation," he said.

The Transparency International report says while these conditions directly affect businesses and aid organizations, they also have a direct negative effect on the recipient countries. Corrupt countries are less attractive for foreign investors, which impacts growth and development and often hits the poorest of the poor hardest.

Kelso says foreign assistance should be more carefully targeted. "Foreign assistance that is being poured out from the developed world also needs to be assessed as to how much is actually making it to the poorest of the poor, who's diverting it and whether the elites in a country are actually stealing a lot of that money and diverting it," he said.

Kelso says donors need to monitor aid money carefully and foreign businesses and investors should not turn a blind eye to corruption by agreeing to pay bribes.

In this year's report the United States ranked among those in 18th place out of 180.