A high expectation of bribes coupled with a high regulatory burden in business interactions with the government has made Bangladesh a country with a 'high' risk of business bribery, according to the latest global bribery risk index.
Bangladesh has also fared poorly in measures taken to discourage bribery and anti-bribery enforcement, the 2019 Trace Bribery Risk Matrix said.
On the 2019 matrix, Bangladesh was ranked 178th among 200 countries. Its risk score is 72 out of 100. The global average score is 51.
In South Asia, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries where the bribery risk is 'high'.
The risk level of other countries in the region is 'medium', except for Bhutan which has a 'low' risk of bribery demands.
However, Bangladesh's rank (178th) is the highest in South Asia, which means its risk score is the highest. Afghanistan, which precedes Bangladesh in terms of risk score, was ranked 168th.
Bhutan, which has the lowest risk score of 41, was placed at 52nd position.
Bangladesh's risk level consistently high
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 was in 2016 when Bangladesh came out 183rd among 199 jurisdictions, and was categorised as a country with a 'very high' bribery risk.
The matrix measures business bribery risk in 200 countries, and provides multidimensional, actionable insights about this risk that can be used by companies to develop more targeted compliance procedures.
Headquartered in the US, Trace International is a globally recognised anti-bribery business association and a leading provider of shared-cost third party risk management solutions.
How Bangladesh fared in individual Trace index indicators
The bribery risk matrix is based on four domains that measure potential business bribery risk in a country. The individual domain scores are weighted and combined to produce the overall risk score of a country.
Business interactions with the government is the first domain where Bangladesh did the worst. Bangladesh received a poor score of 86. This means Bangladesh has a high degree of government interaction in business, a high expectation of bribes and a high regulatory burden.
This 'high' risk of bribe demands in business partly explains Bangladesh's gradual fall on the World Bank's ease of doing business index in the last decade.
Even though Bangladesh's overall ranking improved by 8 notches on the 2020 index, the falling scores in the individual performance indicators since 2006 reveals the underlying truth – the problem of red tape has become aggravated and doing business has become more and more difficult over this period.
Bangladesh also scored poorly (63) in the second domain – anti-bribery deterrence and enforcement. In other words, the quality of both anti-bribery dissuasion process and anti-bribery enforcement is low.
The third domain is government and civil service transparency where Bangladesh achieved a medium score of 60. This means the level of governmental transparency in the area of business is medium while transparency of financial interests is poor.
Also, Bangladesh's score in this domain is the lowest among the four domains.
Capacity for civil society oversight is the fourth domain where Bangladesh's score (64) is poor. This translates into a low degree of media freedom and also a low degree of civil society engagement.
Bangladesh is among the countries with a history of curtailing freedom of the press even though the government has always vehemently claimed otherwise.
Reporters Without Borders, which conducts political advocacy on freedom of the press, said Bangladeshi journalists have been among the leading collateral victims of unrest in the political and social fronts.
In its 2019 World Press Freedom Index, the Paris-based non-profit organisation ranked Bangladesh 150th among 180 countries.
The UK-based human rights organisation Amnesty International said the 2018 Digital Security Act has imposed dangerous restrictions on freedom of expression. However, the government has consistently claimed that the law is aimed at preventing cybercrimes.
Nordic nations at the top
As is customary in different global performance indices, the North European countries have been ranked among the nations where the level of bribery risk is 'very low'.
Norway, the oil-rich Nordic nation, has been ranked second on the Trace index, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Finland.
The UK secured the sixth position while Germany, the largest European economy, came out ninth.
With a risk score of 14, Canada has been ranked eighth. The United States, which has the world's largest economy, has been ranked 15th.
The United States' risk score is 18, which is shared by Estonia, Australia, Austria and Switzerland.
New Zealand, an island country in the Pacific Ocean, topped the index with an overall risk score of 4.
The nexus between corruption and bribery
A look at the corruption perceptions index and the bribery risk matrix reveals an interesting correlation. The countries at the top and the bottom of both indices are the same.
New Zealand emerged as the cleanest country in the world as it topped the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index released by the Berlin-based Transparency International.
The bribery risk there is also the lowest as the country is at the top of the Trace matrix.
Denmark earned second position on the corruption perceptions index, followed by Finland and Norway. Sweden came out sixth.
On the Trace bribery matrix, Norway was ranked second, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Finland.
On the other hand, Somalia was named the most corrupt country in the world on the corruption perceptions index. The East African country was found to have the highest bribery risk and was ranked at the bottom on the Trace matrix.
Similarly, South Sudan was ranked the second most corrupt country on the corruption perceptions index. The North African nation precedes Somalia on the Trace matrix and emerged as the country with the second highest bribery risk.
This confirms the proportional relation between bribery risk and perception of corruption in a country. The higher the risk of bribery, the greater the level of corruption.
Among 180 countries, Bangladesh was ranked 143rd on the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index.