High expectation of bribery among government officials when interacting with businesses, coupled with a high regulatory burden, has repeatedly made Bangladesh a country with a "high" risk of business bribery, said a report by TRACE International.
Bangladesh has also fared poorly in measures taken to discourage bribery and anti-bribery enforcement, said TRACE's 2021 Bribery Risk Matrix report released on Wednesday, which was widely cited by the Indian Express, the Hindu, and Foreign Policy.
Bangladesh slipped one notch down to 167th position in the 2021 matrix, which measured business bribery risk in 194 economies.
The country scored 65 out of 100 this year. A higher score indicates a higher risk of business bribery.
The score meant Bangladesh still presents the highest business bribery risk in South Asia after Afghanistan, according to the list by TRACE.
Mohammad Hatem, executive president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturer and Exporters Association (BKMEA), told TBS, "Our experience is worse than what the report states. We have to do this [pay bribes] at every step. If you pay the bribe, then everything is fine. If you don't, then there will be hassles in each step.
"If you import any product without paying the bribe, then many problems will be discovered. And if you pay it, then all is well."
As a result, the cost of production is increasing and the ease of doing business is worsening, he added.
In South Asia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are the only countries where the bribery risk was categorised as "high", while the risk level of other countries in the region was "medium".
Bhutan, which has the lowest risk score of 40 in the region, ranked 62nd.
It is followed by India (82nd), Sri Lanka (92nd), Nepal (112th), and the Maldives (118th).
Similar to last year's findings, Afghanistan retained its place in having the highest business bribery risk in the region. With a score of 68, the war-torn country ranked 174th globally, followed by Bangladesh and Pakistan (150th).
The overall country risk score is a combined and weighted score of four domains – business interactions with the government, anti-bribery deterrence and enforcement, government and civil service transparency, and capacity for civil society oversight, which includes the role of the media.
Bangladesh has consistently been named a "high-risk" country on the TRACE Bribery Matrix since 2014, when the first matrix was released.
The only exception happened in 2016, when Bangladesh ranked 183rd among 199 countries, becoming a country with a "very high" bribery risk.
How Bangladesh fared
Business interactions with the government was the first domain where Bangladesh did the worst. Bangladesh received a poor score of 71, meaning it has a high degree of government interaction in business, a high expectation of bribes and a high regulatory burden, stated the report.
It also scored poorly (65) in the second domain – anti-bribery deterrence and enforcement – reflecting a medium quality of anti-bribery dissuasion and a low quality of anti-bribery enforcement.
Rizwan Rahman, president, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said it was hard to do work without paying bribes.
"Although this increases the cost of business, many people choose this path to make their work easier," he said.
He, however, added that it was difficult to get accurate information about the level of bribing, as those who paid bribes were not willing to admit it.
In the report, Bangladesh's score of 59 in the third domain – government and civil service transparency – is the lowest among all four. It meant the quality of governmental transparency in the area of business and transparency of financial interests were both medium.
Capacity for civil society oversight was the fourth domain where Bangladesh's score (61) was poor. This translates into a low degree of media freedom/quality and also a low degree of civil society engagement.
With very low risk, Nordic nations top list
The North European countries have been ranked among the nations where the level of business bribery risk is "very low".
With a score of just two, Denmark presents the lowest business bribery risk in the world, followed by Norway with a score of 5, Sweden (7), Finland (7), and New Zealand (8).
Meanwhile, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Eritrea, Venezuela and Somalia were found to have the highest business bribery risk globally.
Nexus between corruption and bribery
A look at the corruption perceptions index and the bribery risk matrix reveals an interesting correlation.
It has been seen that nations which have less risks of corruption and bribery tend to have a better ease of doing business and vice-versa.
New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, and Switzerland emerged as the cleanest countries in the world, as those topped the 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index released by the Berlin-based Transparency International.
The bribery risk there is also the lowest as these countries are at the top of the TRACE Bribery Matrix.
On the other hand, Somalia was named the most corrupt country in the world on the corruption perceptions index, while it was also ranked at the bottom-five on the TRACE matrix.
Among 180 countries, Bangladesh was ranked 146th on the 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index.