Transparency International just issued a report on military sales into the Middle East. (Transparency International: Mideast and North African Military Corruption “Critical”)
The report notes the massive sales by Western countries is worsening many of the region’s conflicts.
Many of the 17 countries listed in the report are already notoriously corrupt, and increasing military spending without adequate oversight, the report states, means defense budgets are not being spent to meet countries’ strategic needs, weapons are increasingly trafficked over porous borders and the governments’ domestic legitimacy — already battered by 2011’s revolts — are further undermined.
Remember that TI looks at how transparent government operations are. Only two of the 17 countries covered in the 2-year report — Jordan and Tunisia — publish their defense numbers. The rest keep the numbers as secret as possible.
Another thing to look at in this situation is not only the corruption index of these countries — all “High” to “Critical” — but also at how these governments look at press freedom.
None of these countries, with the exception of Kuwait, breaks into the “Partly Free” category of press freedom by Freedom House.
Previous reports from Freedom House show a steady decline in press freedom in the area.
There is a real connection between freedom of the press and reduced corruption. Just look at the bottom 20 of press freedom and the worst 20 on the TI corruption scale. (More political freedom=More press freedom=Less corruption)
Or look at how just the general issue of transparency and free press interact: Transparency and Free Press.
Free and independent media are vital to democratic and transparent government. And remember that this is not exclusively an international issue. This idea filters all the way down to the most local of local governments. The freedom of information laws we have at all levels of government are there for a reason.
And if anyone is wondering, there is a major effort on the international level to expand FOI laws in countries where they exist and to introduce such laws where they don’t. The problem is the real need for FOI laws is also in those countries that don’t recognize press freedom.