A global anti-corruption watchdog says the United States has dropped four spots in its list of nations' anti-corruption efforts and is now no longer listed in the top 20 for the first time.
"Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions and, in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption," said Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International (TI).
The Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks 180 countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, found overall that the failure to control corruption is contributing to a "crisis of democracy around the world."
"Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions and, in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption"
Under the Trump Administration, the US slipped four points to 71 on a 0-100 scale, the lowest score its registered in seven years.
That sounds a "wake-up call" about the need to tackle conflicts of interest, undue influence of the private sector and widening gaps between rich and poor, said Zoe Reiter, the watchdog's acting representative to the United States.
"This is a red flag because it's really part of a pattern that we've seen since the 2008 global financial crisis of a loss of trust ... in our public institutions," she told Reuters. "People don't see us as having adequate mechanisms in place to fight corruption and ensure the accountability of our elected officials."
Singapore improved its position compared to 2017 and ranks now on third place together with Switzerland and Sweden.
Since 2012, only 20 countries have significantly improved their scores, including Estonia and Côte d'Ivoire, and 16 have significantly declined, including, Australia, Chile and Malta.
India improved its ranking, while its neighbour China lagged far behind. India rose by three points to 78 in the list of 180 countries in the world, while China ranked 87 and Pakistan 117 in 2018.
Transparency International uses several criteria for measuring how well a country is fighting corruption, including checks and balances on political power, controls on conflicts of interest and private influence on government, and voter suppression.
For the 2018 index, 180 countries were surveyed. Denmark and New Zealand topped the list while Somalia, Syria, and South Sudan were at the bottom.