The UAE beat other countries in the Middle East and North Africa to emerge as the least corrupt nation in the region, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Index.
However, it joined other Gulf states in seeing its score decline on the index. The UAE ranked 24th with a score of 66, down from the 70 seen in the two previous years.
In the region, the Emirates stood ahead of Israel in 28th with a score of 64, up from 61 in 2015, and Qatar in 31st, which saw the sharpest decline in the overall index from 71 to 61.
Jordan came in at 57th with a score of 48, down from 53 the previous year while Saudi Arabia stood at 62nd with a score of 46, down from 52.
Oman stood at 64th and maintained its score at 45 while Bahrain held in 70th having seen its score decline from 51 to 43.
Kuwait was ranked 75th after its score declined from 49 to 41.
“Gulf States have dropped on the index, as ruling families continue to hold power politically and economically, public freedoms are oppressed, and an active independent civil society is absent,” Transparency said.
“The military involvement of these states in regional coalitions has raised the levels of secrecy,” the report said.
Transparency said two-thirds of countries in the index fell below the midpoint of the scale and the average score was a just 43.
In too many countries, people are deprived of their most basic needs and go to bed hungry every night because of corruption, while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity, according to José Ugaz, chairman of Transparency International.
The report ranked 176 countries and territories from highly corrupt with a score of 0 to very clean with a score of 100.
According to a May 2016 survey by Transparency International, 50 million people in the region paid bribes during 2015.
The anti-corruption watchdog’s survey found that 30% of people in nine countries in the Middle East have had to pay a bribe to access some public services such as medical care and electricity.
Transparency International said that governments across the region had failed to stamp out corruption, based on its findings from a survey of 11,000 adults in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen.
Bribery is common in obtaining public services, in the court systems and among police in the region, research by the Berlin-based anti-corruption group found.
Also, 61% of those surveyed said that corruption in their country had gone up over the last 12 months.
Only a fifth of people who paid a bribe reported the incident, and twice as many said they suffered retaliation when they did report corruption, according to Transparency International.