Tue, Aug 29, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Muslim countries tackle graft

'SCOURGE' Malaysia's prime minister said he believed that corruption in the Muslim world was rooted in poverty, poor governance and a lack of educational opportunities

AGENCIES , KUALA LUMPUR

Islamic nations are ranked as among the world's most corrupt and the fight to tackle the scourge could be tough due to poverty and poor governance, Malaysia's prime minister said yesterday.

Taking his anti-corruption message to the rest of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) nations, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who chairs the group, said there were no quick fixes to completely eradicate the problem.

"I am deeply saddened to note that Muslim countries, as a group, do not rate very highly when it comes to perceptions of corruption," he said at the opening of the group's first forum on graft.

"I believe that many of the development challenges that the Muslim Ummah [community] faces have their roots in problems of poverty, poor governance and limited education opportunities," he said.

Citing Transparency International's report from last year, he said the Muslim country with the best record could only rank 29th out of 158 countries surveyed.

"More than half of the bottom 10 places were occupied by Muslim countries," he said.

Chad was ranked as the most corrupt.

"The current condition that Muslim countries find themselves is deeply alarming and distressing," he said.

"It is vital for Muslim nations to focus their attention on improving their position," Abdullah said, describing corruption as a "form of cancer" that robs a country of development resources.

"We bear the responsibility of charting ... a future free from the scourge of corruption. There are no quick or certain fixes but I believe we can accomplish much if we undertake the necessary mix of strategies, as well as legislative and administrative reforms," Abdullah added.

The OIC meeting is expected to discuss ways of jointly fighting graft in the Muslim world.

OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, in a prepared speech at the forum, put the blame on unethical multinational corporations (MNCs) doing business in Muslim countries.

"I also wish to identify the role of MNCs, who are responsible for spreading the curse of corruption," he said.

He also urged members to set up "integrity institutions" to help conduct anti-corruption efforts, noting that countries must also boost their battle against terrorism and international crime.

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