Today, Transparency International released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index. This year, New Zealand and Denmark tied for the least corrupt countries in the world, and Somalia, North Korea, and Afghanistan were all given the same ranking at the bottom.
Unsurprisingly, conflict areas have experienced worsening corruption, and corruption remains high in much of the Middle East and Africa.
Map from the 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index below:
While much of the survey's findings might not be especially striking, it is worth pointing out that Botswana has once again been ranked as the least corrupt country in Africa. This year, Botswana was ranked as less corrupt than many countries in Europe such as Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece (which has improved upon its 2012 score).
A press release from the government of Botswana cites a number of bodies as contributing factors to Botswana's comparatively impressive ranking:
Botswana's success in the annual survey over the years has been attributed to our zero tolerance approach to corruption buttressed by the putting into place of multiple oversight institution, such as the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB), the Competition Authority and the Financial Intelligence Agency.
Botswana, as well as being the least corrupt country in Africa, is also one of Africa's freest economies. This year, the Heritage Foundation ranked Botswana as the 30th most economically free country in the world in their annual Index of Economic Freedom (the only African country to rank higher than Botswana in this index was the island nation of Mauritius).
As Scott Beaulier, Associate Professor of Economics at Troy University, has pointed out, some of the early market reforms adopted by Botswana's first president, Seretse Khama, were motivated in part by a desire to reduce corruption (emphasis mine):
Unlike other African leaders, Khama's program simultaneously adopted pro-market policies on several important margins. For example, Khama's new government promised low and stable taxes to mining companies. His government opened the doors both to trade and to people. Furthermore, he kept marginal income taxes low to deter tax evasion and corruption.
It should not be a surprise that there is a relationship between economic freedom and corruption, as Ambassador Terry Miller and Anthony B. Kim pointed out in Chapter 1 of the Heritage Foundation's 2012 Index of Economic Freedom:
Corruption can infect all parts of an economy; there is a direct relationship between the extent of government regulation or other government intervention in economic activity and the amount of corruption. Almost any government regulation can provide an opportunity for bribery or graft. In addition, a government regulation or restriction in one area may create an informal market in another. For example, a country with high barriers to trade may have laws that protect its domestic market and prevent the import of foreign goods, but these barriers create incentives for smuggling and a black market for the restricted products.