BULGARIA - NINE PLACES DOWN IN INT'L CORRUPTION RANKING
Together with Brazil and the Czech Republic, Bulgaria now occupies 54th position among 133 countries in the 2003 annual ranking of corruption, according to the index of the prestigious NGO Transparency International. The yearly results of the international monitor were officially made public on Tuesday (October 7) at a special press conference of the NGO's Bulgarian branch. The research was conducted by several independent sociological agencies among business circles in the country and abroad. Transparency International's corruption index is calculated on the basis of a 10-point scale where 0.0 indicates a society thoroughly corroded by bribery. Bulgaria now gets 3.9 - 0.1 down from 2002. However, this small difference is sufficient to move the country nine places down the ranking as compared to twelve months ago when Bulgaria ranked 45th. The evaluation has taken into consideration observations of the World Bank, The Economist magazine, the reports about the country's competitiveness of the World Economy Forum, etc. However, Bulgaria performs better than more advanced EU fellow-candidate Poland which occupies 64th position and 70th-ranked Bosnia and Herzegovina.The frontrunners in the international monitor's ranking are Finland, Iceland and Denmark (with respective indices of 9.7, 9.6 and 9.5). New Zealand and Singapore emerge as the runner-ups, while Germany is ranked 16th and the USA - 18th. According to Dimiter Kyumyurdjiev, Deputy Chairman of the NGO's representation in Bulgaria, the country's corruption score has worsened for the first time in the last six years. He pointed out as an example the data from previous years when Bulgaria was rising in the ranking. Among the reasons for the bad performance Mr. Kyumyurdjiev mentioned the Government's commitments under multinational conventions for fighting corruption, which the country has failed to fulfill. The sociologist Ognyan Minchev is of the opinion that Bulgaria's low index is foremost due to the failed big privatisation deals. He said that the open lobbying on the part of various groups of MPs in favour of one or another candidate in the unsuccessful divestment of Bulgartabac Holding and the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC) undermined investors' trust in Bulgaria.