Taiwan is among the three best-performing countries in fighting against corruption in the Asia-Pacific region, according to new report.

Between July 2015 and January 2017, Berlin-based international NGO Transparency International interviewed 21,861 people living in 16 countries, regions or territories in the Asia Pacific region to gauge the success of the fight against corruption.

The 38-page report, “People and Corruption: Asia Pacific — Global Corruption Barometer,” was released on March 7. It found that when asked about how corruption had changed in the past year, only 22 percent of respondents believed it had decreased and 40 percent thought the level had increased. The situation in China appears to have worsened the most, with 73 percent of respondents in China saying the level has increased over the past three years.

The NGO also asked people about their experience with bribery. More than one in four surveyed have paid a bribe to access public services, which potentially amounts to more than 900 million people across the region. Public services include accessing public schools, public clinics or hospitals, official documents, utility services, the police and the courts. The situation is worst in India with a 69 percent bribery rate. Taiwan was among the countries with a lower rate at 6 percent.

While 30 percent of the respondents who have paid a bribe said that the cash went to the police, those in Taiwan said bribes were mostly used to access public schools and utilities. The report also found that people with higher incomes in Taiwan were more likely to pay bribes.

Respondents believed the best way to combat corruption is to report instances of corruption and refuse to pay bribes.

People were also asked whether or not they felt empowered in the fight against corruption, and a majority of 63 percent agreed they were empowered. Those in Australia, Taiwan (ranking second at 79 percent) and Indonesia felt most empowered, and people in Pakistan least. The question was not asked in China.

The survey concludes that Australia, Taiwan and Sri Lanka had the most positive ratings. “In these countries, few people felt that corruption was increasing, many people felt empowered to help fight against corruption and bribery rates were very or fairly low,” reads the report.

But it also says there are areas that need improvement, such as 54 percent of Taiwan respondents saying the government is doing a poor job of fighting corruption.

Malaysia and Vietnam performed worst without a single positive rating.

Governments in the Asia-Pacific region collectively committed to take action against corruption in 1999, when the Anti-Corruption Initiative for Asia-Pacific was launched with the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The U.N. has also urged governments to tackle corruption, which the international organization believes is key to achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to ensure peace and prosperity for all.

“Corruption has disastrous impacts on development when funds that should be devoted to schools, health clinics and other vital public services are instead diverted into the hands of criminals or dishonest officials,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Dec. 9, 2015, also Anti-Corruption Day.

Editor: Edward White