Corruption, Your Name Is Nigeria

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Quick quiz: If you were in charge of an agency responsible for doling out cash to various countries, what nation would cause you to worry most, out of fear its authorities would pocket the cash before it reached the people? Which country would you send a check to without a second thought?

Happily, you don't really have to answer that question, because the staff at Transparency International already has. And Wednesday, the Berlin-based non-governmental watchdog organization released its annual "corruption index," which ranks 90 nations in descending order of "cleanliness." Corruption, defined by TI guidelines, is "a universal cancer" that hampers political stability and foreign investment in developing countries.

So who's won bragging rights this year? Unfortunately, it tends to be the case that the countries which need the money most are also the most likely to squander it. Nigeria, one of the world's poorest countries, and Finland frame the survey — Finland ranks as least corrupt; Nigeria as the most troubled by venality. The worst-off countries, whose ranks also include Azerbaijan, Yugoslavia and Ukraine, scored poorly in the group's corruption survey, which is based on analysis by risk experts and each country's business community and general population.

Squeaky-clean Finland, along with Scandinavian neighbors Denmark and Sweden, sailed through the test, much to the delight, one imagines, of the countries' respective potentates. Because although none of these countries tends to enter into consideration for global aid packages, the TI rankings will solidify their reputations as awfully nice places to spend a vacation. Bring on the tourists!