Published: Jan 28, 2020

The UAE Steering the Right Course through the Global Corruption Waters

Buoyed by improved anti-corruption efforts, the UAE is floating towards the top of this year’s global anti-corruption index.


The UAE’s 2019 Standing

Transparency International, the global coalition against corruption, the leading non-governmental organisation dedicated to combating corruption and affiliated activities, has just published its 2019 Corruption Perception Index that ranks 180 countries on various factors related to public sector bribery. The UAE has improved its Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score from last year’s index, and is now ranked 21st globally. The UAE has successfully navigated its way ahead of both France and the US in this year’s ranking, jointly ranked 23rd.


Improvements in the Region

The UAE remains the flagship for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with the lowest levels of perceived corruption. The UAE is not alone, however, as this year’s rankings show that other MENA countries have also set the right course, with great advancements for both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia is now close to breaking the top 50 horizon, cruising from 55th globally in 2018 to 51st in 2019, and Bahrain has improved its rank from 99th globally in 2018 to 77th in 2019. Qatar has also managed to steer its way through difficult waters, and is second in the MENA index. Qatar is now ranked 30th globally, an improvement on last year’s ranking of 33rd.

The improvements in the MENA region, specifically for the UAE, KSA, Qatar and Bahrain are a result of State initiatives to batten down their hatches with improved anti-corruption legislation, but also publicity campaigns to raise awareness of the scurvy of corrupt practices and how businesses should chart a course for success by relying on good business ethics and transparency. As the Region looks to diversify its economies, both public and private actors who solidify their ethical practices, demonstrate good governance and adhere to international and domestic norms will thrive. All are bound by anti-corruption legislation, but only those who abide by best practice will ensure that their international success and business relationships are sustainable. It is this short and long-term planning that has allowed the UAE to surpass standards experienced in developed economies, including the US, France, Spain, and Portugal in this year’s ranking.

By way of global standing, the 2019 Index is headed jointly by Denmark and New Zealand, ranked 1st, who both obtained a CPI score of 81, yet conflicts in Somalia (ranked 180th) and South Sudan (179th) have kept the two African States anchored to the bottom of the global index with scores of 9 and 12 respectively.

The Corruption Perceptions Index serves as an important indicator for commercial and governance conditions in disparate jurisdictions, but capturing the full extent of nuanced corruption-related topics in a single monolithic metric can prove problematic. For further information on interpreting Transparency International’s flagship index, please feel free to read our previous feature article on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 here.


Aim for 2020

As always, it is imperative that our clients are aware of corruption hazards, prepare well, and keep a weather eye on their internal integrity standards. 2019, which brought increased scrutiny of financial crime in the UAE with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) assessment, improved commercial awareness around various corruption concerns, including the rules and regulations surrounding business incentives and gifts, money laundering concerns, and ties to domestic and foreign public officials. In mind of the penalties available to companies that breach anti-corruption laws, continued awareness and strategic planning are necessary to ensure that both public and private entities stay afloat, and ride a tide of prosperity and integrity into 2020.

Also Read: Effects of Corruption & Economic Development

For further information on the above or any international or regional financial crime related matters please contact:

Ibtissem Lassoued
Partner, Head of Advisory, Financial Crime

Khalid Al Hamrani
Partner, Head of Financial Crime