Government corruption in most Asian countries is bad and getting worse, according to a study to be launched today. Transparency International's (TI) 1998 Corruption Perceptions Index has been expanded from 52 to 85 countries and is based on 12 international surveys of business people, analysts and the public. Hong Kong and Singapore are perceived to have the least corrupt governments in Asia, according to the report. A TI official warned that 'the rest of Asia will find that there are serious questions that have to be asked. The situation is very grim as there is a huge number of seriously corrupt systems'. TI is a non-government organisation committed to curbing corruption. Headquartered in Berlin it has strong backing from leading multilateral bodies. World Bank president James Wolfensohn has made prevention of corruption a cornerstone of his policy-making. The bank has released several studies proving that corruption distorts the free-market process and contributes to waste and economic underperformance. A recent Harvard University study found that a rise in the corruption level from that of Singapore to Mexico is equivalent to raising the marginal tax rate by more than 20 per cent. A one percentage point increase in the marginal tax rate reduces inward foreign direct investment by about 5 per cent. Rather than alleging that one country is more corrupt than another the survey shows how people perceive levels of corruption. The ranking system is designed so countries perceived to be the least corrupt are given the highest scores out of 10. An official said the majority of Asian countries rate less than four points. TI claims that while some governments have rejected the criticism others have acted on it by initiating reforms to strengthen the integrity of their systems. Last year Hong Kong was rated the 18th least corrupt country with a score of 6.97 while Singapore was ranked ninth on 8.66. Denmark topped the poll with 9.94 while Nigeria was ranked the most corrupt with 1.76.