(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The general perception among Israelis that the government has become ever more corrupt over the years received a stamp of legitimacy Monday, as Transparency International released its 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which points to the correlation between corruption and poverty.
Israel was listed along with Brazil, Cuba, Jordan, Laos, Seychelles, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and the US as countries whose perceived levels of corruption were growing significantly worse.
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CPI relates to perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people and country analysts, and ranges from scores of 10, which is "highly clean," and 0, which is "highly corrupt."
Israel, along with Taiwan, received a score of 5.9 on the CPI scale and was ranked 34 in the world out of 163 countries included in the yearly survey. In 2005 Israel was ranked six places higher.
The survey found a very high correlation between high poverty levels and perceived corruption.
According to a September 2006 Peace Index poll published by Professors Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann of Tel Aviv University, the Israeli public has already arrived at the same conclusions as the Transparency International findings. About three-fourths of the public - 73 percent - think many or almost all social service workers are involved in corruption.
This pessimistic atmosphere apparently affects the public's view of the functioning of Israeli democracy.
On a scale of 0 (very poor) to 10 (very good), Israeli democracy gets an average grade of 5.7, whereas the Jewish public today gives a 6.7 to its functioning 10 years ago.
Qatar and Bhutan were ranked just above Israel with scores of 6.0, while Bahrain scored just below at 5.7.
Among Israel's Middle East neighbors, Iraq scored a 1.9, Iran and Libya scored 2.7, Syria 2.9, Saudi Arabia and Egypt 3.3, Lebanon 3.6, Turkey 3.8, and Jordan 5.3.
Countries that showed significant improvement in perceived levels of corruption include: Algeria, Czech Republic, India, Japan, Latvia, Lebanon, Mauritius, Paraguay, Slovenia, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uruguay.
The countries deemed "cleanest," with scores of 9.6, were Finland, New Zealand and Iceland, while Haiti scored the lowest at 1.6.
The CPI methodology is reviewed by an Index Advisory Committee consisting of leading international experts in the fields of corruption, econometrics and statistics.
Members of the committee make suggestions for improving the CPI, but the management of TI takes the final decisions on the methodology used. The CPI 2006 draws on 12 different polls and surveys from nine independent institutions.