People perceive New Zealand to be the least corrupt nation in which to do business, and Somalia the most, according to a new report.
Denmark, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland round out the top five.
The rankings reflect political stability, long-established conflict of interest regulations and solid, functioning public institutions, according to Transparency International's 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures corruption perceived by the public sector.
The United States ranked 19th, below the United Kingdom (17th) and Canada (8th) but ahead of France (24th), Italy (63rd) and Mexico (89th), according to the report.
The vast majority of the 180 countries measured scored below five on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 10 (perceived to have low levels of corruption).
Unstable states scarred by war and ongoing conflict and without strong institutions were deemed to be more corrupt. Along with Somalia, the worst included Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan and Iraq.
"Political stability, long-established conflict of interest regulations and solid, functioning public institutions" were hallmarks of the highest scorers.
More from the report:
When essential institutions are weak or non-existent, corruption spirals out of control and the plundering of public resources feeds insecurity and impunity. Corruption also makes normal a seeping loss of trust in the very institutions and nascent governments charged with ensuring survival and stability.
Countries at the bottom of the index cannot be shut out from development efforts. Instead, what the index points to is the need to strengthen their institutions. Investors and donors should be equally vigilant of their operations and as accountable for their own actions as they are in demanding transparency and accountability from beneficiary countries.
According to the report, industrialized nations are also at risk of bribery and corruption, stoked by financial secrecy and the emergence of cartels.
Still, the list is useful for businesses looking to expand overseas and please shareholders at the same time. Operations in corrupt countries never look good on the balance sheet.
You can see the full list of countries here.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com