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Survey Indicates Corruption in Asia Remains High

A survey of foreign business people suggests that corruption in Asia remains high, and shows that Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo are perceived as the least corrupt places in the region.

Foreign executives say Asian governments must continue to fight corruption. They also think that while business corruption remains a problem, it is slightly less common in the majority of the region's economies than it was a year ago.

The Political and Economic Risk Consultancy did the survey. It found that Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore are the only economies with above average scores, meaning that they had less corruption that most other places included in the survey.

Robert Broadfoot, the company's managing director, notes that Singapore has a reputation that matches or even surpasses that of the United States, Britain and Australia. "It is perceived to have a very intolerant attitude toward corruption. Corruption exists everywhere but how aggressively do governments go after the problem? Places like Singapore are very aggressive," he says. "Hong Kong is too, but the nature of the system is more open. It is also interfacing with China in ways that Singapore is not."

The survey found the Philippine's score markedly improved after President Gloria Arroyo took over from Joseph Estrada last year, but Manila's score remains well below the average.

Investors in the Philippine telecommunications sector are watching for news on a possible spin-off. The country's dominant phone company, PLDT or Philippine Long Distance Telephone, is expected to announce details on the equity sale of part of its mobile phone subsidiary Smart Telecommunications. It has not yet revealed how large a stake it will sell. PLDT wants the cash to service more than $1 billion in debt. PLDT previously said it would not sell more than 20 percent of Smart.

In China, state-owned industries are expected to show lower profits. Chinese State Economic and Trade Commission Minister Li Rong-rong has warned that government-owned companies are likely to suffer from falling prices. State companies registered a 1.4 percent drop in profit last year, to $28 billion. Mr. Li has not said how much they could drop this year.

Another decline would be a setback for state-owned companies, which China has been trying to turnaround since 1998. The government says it will continue to close the worst performing businesses. Last year it shut more than 10,000 companies.