by Ravi Philemon
The latest Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) shows that Singapore’s scores are at its lowest level in a decade. Our global ranking in the CPI has also dropped.
The CPI by Transparency International is an important metric, even for the Government. In 2017, PM Lee boasted that Singapore does very well in this Index.
The CPI generally defines corruption as an “abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. The country which topped the Index this year (and almost every other year) is Denmark.
Denmark is a small country with a population which is much like Singapore’s – 5.8 million people. Even our GDP is quite similar. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Denmark was approximately $351 billion in 2021, while the GDP of Singapore was approximately $387 billion in the same year.
So, what could be the one factor for Denmark to top the CPI year-after-year? It is because Denmark values integrity in politics and views it as a key factor to fighting against corruption.
Denmark has a multi-party system, with two large parties, and several other small but significant parties. No single party has held an absolute majority in the Folketing (the Danish Parliament) since the beginning of the 20th century. The political parties cooperate and hold each other accountable where necessary, for the benefit of its people.
This is an ideal Singapore can and should aim for.
The drop in the CPI rank for Singapore comes at a time when six former senior management staff members of Keppel Offshore & Marine (KOM) are implicated over a corruption case involving Brazilian oil giant Petrobras. The senior staff involved in the corruption case were not named by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and they were all only given stern warnings by the CPIB and the Attorney- General’s Chambers (AGC).
There is disquiet from the public about CPIB and AGC’s decision to not prosecute the six ex-senior staff of KOM. A Senior Counsel has asked the AGC some hard questions on why it did not prosecute them.
Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, has responded to such serious questions raised by the general public to say that their views are formed based on an inadequate understanding of the facts of the case. Ms Rajah said that she will explain the facts at the next Parliamentary sitting on 6 Feb 2023.
But one must wonder what kind of answers the public will get in a Parliament which is dominated by the People’s Action Party (PAP). The PAP holds almost 90 percent of the seats in the House despite winning just over 60 per cent of the votes cast in the 2020 General Election.
Let’s not forget that it was this Parliament which failed to even answer legitimate questions by its own members, but from a different camp, dismissing them as “not meaningful”.
Wasn’t it the same Ms Rajah who dismissed one such question this way, only to release the relevant data later after the public expressed their unhappiness over the issue?
The higher CPI for Denmark is reflective of its reverence for a high degree of press freedom, access to information about public expenditure, stronger standards of integrity for public officials, and independent systems of checks and balances.
The drop in the CPI ranking for Singapore is worrying. The only way to arrest this decline and make sure that we continue to not condone or tolerate corruption is by ensuring that we have an effective Parliament.
A multi-party Parliament will be Singapore’s insurance policy to ensure that we remain corruption free.
This post was first published on Mr Ravi Philemon’s Facebook page. Mr Philemon is the Secretary-General of Red Dot United, a political party in Singapore.