In the Corruption Perceptions Index for 2020, the Maldives’ performance increased by 14 points. What is the secret of such success?
Back in 2016-2019, the position of the Maldives tended to deteriorate: 36 points against 29 points, respectively. However, in 2020, the country showed an excellent result and scored 43 points. The Maldives improved its score by 14 points per year and rose to 75th place out of 130. Thus, in matters of combating corruption, the state is moving in the right direction.
Transparency Maldives notes that the Maldives has made progress by strengthening the legislative framework, but there is still a lot to work on in the real sector.
In early 2019, Transparency Maldives (Transparency International’s chapter) presented a new anti-corruption plan to the new government. The organization also worked closely with ministers on an official draft law to protect whistleblowers, which was approved by parliament in October 2019 and immediately approved by President Solih.
The anti-corruption projects of Transparency Maldives included:
- Climate Integrity Project: promoting transparency, accountability, and integrity in the management of climate finance policies at the global and national levels;
- BAARU Project: support and strengthening of local government systems;
- Advocacy and Legal Advice Center (ALAC): a free legal center for victims and witnesses of corruption and human rights violations;
- Project Human Rights: expanding the democratic space and protecting human rights by building partnerships, collective lobbying and advocacy as well as promotional activities;
- Elections Project: ensuring free and fair election processes.
What exactly did the Maldives have to deal with? Let us recall the country’s high-profile corruption scandals.
The tourism sector makes the most significant contribution to the Maldives economy. Therefore, it is not surprising that the biggest corruption scandals in the country are related to the “treasure islands.”
In 2016, the international television company Al Jazeera stated that about USD 1.5 bln was laundered through false investments in tourism using the scheme of impressive simplicity. The money was allegedly transported to the islands in cash and transferred to private companies, where it was recorded as a net return on investment in tourism.
However, this case was not the only one among the questionable tourism deals in the Maldives. In 2018, another event became public: more than 50 islands and coral reefs were leased under non-competitive agreements. At least USD 79 mln in rental payments was transferred to private bank accounts and used to bribe politicians. The scandal affected local businessmen and international tour operators, as well as then-President Abdul Yameen, who allegedly received a USD 1 mln bribe.
In addition, in early February 2018, a political crisis erupted in the Maldives due to President Yameen’s refusal to comply with the Supreme Court’s order to release political prisoners (opposition leaders). In response to it, on February 5, 2018, Yameen announced the introduction of a 15-day state of emergency, which was to give broader powers to the security forces. A few hours later, the military forced entry into the Supreme Court building and arrested two judges, along with Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed.
Yameen’s defeat in the presidential election in the fall of 2018 was predictable, and Ibrahim Mohamed Solih became the new president. On February 14, 2019, the Anti-Corruption Commission of the Maldives (ACC) released a list of 155 people, including politicians from across the political spectrum, and companies, indicating the amounts received from a private bank used as a channel for illegal payments. The main account belonged to the music group Scores of Flair, whose members were the former Minister of Tourism and Vice President of the country and his friends.
In late November 2019, former President Abdul Yameen was sentenced to 5 years in prison and fined USD 5 mln for corruption. According to the court decision, the ex-president laundered USD 1 million through his bank account, which was discussed during the 2018 tourism scandal. To announce the verdict, five judges were in the chambers for 10 days.
In addition, in 2020, the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Maldives sentenced former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb to 20 years in prison on three corruption charges. The sentence was announced after he pleaded guilty to illicit enrichment, money laundering, and abuse of power.
If we recall that the CPI does not take into account the level of corruption, but rather its perception, it is not surprising that all the above steps contributed to a real jump in the Maldives Index. We very much hope that in the oncoming years the country will be able to further strengthen its position.
Let us remind you that the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is an indicator calculated by Transparency International since 1995. The organization itself does not conduct its own surveys. The Index is calculated based on 13 studies of reputable international institutions and think tanks. CPI assesses corruption only in the public sector.
The key indicator of the Index is not the rank, but the score. The minimum score (0 points) means that corruption actually replaces the government, while the maximum (100 points) indicates that corruption is almost absent in society.
Indicators of Ukraine and other countries: https://ti-ukraine.org/en/research/ukraine-in-the-corruption-perceptions-index-2020/