Perceptions of corruption in Qatar have soared as it prepares to host the football World Cup in 2022, according to an influential index.
Corruption perceptions in the Middle East rose more than any other region in the face of instability and crackdowns on freedom, according to non-governmental monitor, Transparency International.
The Middle East has seen war and instability rise since the Arab Spring of 2011. Syria has, unsurprisingly, fallen down the rankings as its civil war continues, but more stable countries such as Kuwait and Bahrain have also seen corruption perceptions increase.
Meanwhile Qatar has been tainted by association with high-profile scandals around the awarding of the football World Cup by FIFA, the world football governing body. Allegations of bribery and favours plagued the bid, while working conditions on sites have also been heavily criticised.
“The FIFA scandals, the investigations into the decision to host the World Cup in 2022 in Qatar and reports of human rights abuses for migrant workers have clearly affected the perception of the country,” said Jose Ugaz, chair of Transparency International.
The least corrupt countries in the world are dominated by Europe, with 13 of the top 20. Denmark and New Zealand came joint top, while the UK was unchanged in 10th, above the United States in 18th.
Other notable countries are Italy and China, both of which fail to reach an index score of 50.
Somalia, South Sudan and North Korea are the most corrupt countries in the world, as war-torn nations and authoritarian regimes languish at the bottom of the table.
Somalia has come bottom of the index in every year since 2007, when no data was available. Similarly, the pariah state of North Korea has been in the bottom three since 2011, when data was first gathered.
Transparency International also said populism is not the answer to corruption in countries such as Hungary and Turkey.
Turkey has moved further down the ranking over the past few years in tandem with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s moves to remove limits on his power, while Hungary’s Viktor Orban has explicitly attacked liberal values.
“In countries with populist or autocratic leaders, we often see democracies in decline and a disturbing pattern of attempts to crack down on civil society, limit press freedom, and weaken the independence of the judiciary,” said Ugaz.
“Only where there is freedom of expression, transparency in all political processes and strong democratic institutions, can civil society and the media hold those in power to account and corruption be fought successfully.”