Despite ever-present complaints over blatant corruption in Malta, the corruption perception index by Transparency International shows that Malta is actually doing better than others in Europe. Ranking 52nd in the index, the islands share its place with neighbouring country Italy.
The index rates countries based on their perceived corruption on a scale from 0 to 100, with 0 being highly corrupt and 100 being very clean.
With a score of 53 out of 100, Malta sits above the average global score of 43. As two-third of all countries rank below 50, Malta does better than average.
Still, having dropped four places since 2020, Malta reached an “all-time low” in the corruption perceptions index. And compared to the rest of Europe, we rank lower than the average of 66 out of 100 points.
Bulgaria and Romania also dangle lower than Malta, as they share the 69th place with just 44 out of 100 points.
The best countries were Denmark and New Zealand with a score of 88, followed by Finland, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland who scored 85 points. The most corrupt countries are South Sudan and Somalia with 12 points each, Syria with 14 points and Yemen and Venezuela with just 15 points.
Country to watch
Malta, together with Poland, was listed as a “country to watch” within Western Europe and the EU. According to the index, Malta is in a significant decline after dropping seven points since 2015.
The EU has reported that “deep corruption patterns have been unveiled and have raised a strong public demand for a significantly strengthened capacity to tackle corruption and wider rule of law reforms”.
The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017 was a catastrophic cause of concern, as she was one of the very few highlighting high-level corruption.
Moreover, the “golden passports programme” sparked controversy in Brussels, and a European Central Bank report found “major failings” in Malta’s biggest bank, potentially allowing for money laundering and other criminal activities.
COVID-19 cause for corruption?
Even during the pandemic, corruption runs deep – from bribery for COVID-19 tests and treatment to public procurement of medical supplies.
Corruption puts funds in the pockets of politicians, keeping them away from much-needed investments in health care.
Besides, the lack of transparency in public spending heightens the risk of corruption. In an emergency crisis like COVID-19, when speed and efficiency are of utmost importance, budget transparency can become difficult to enforce.
Countries with higher levels of corruption rely on less democratic responses to the crisis. Besides shifting spending away from essential public services, corruption continues to contribute to Malta’s democratic backsliding.
That means that Malta’s corruption might be the cause of undemocratic rulings, as most concerns the Maltese people voice regarding the regulations seem to fall on deaf ears.