The Corruption Perceptions Index serves as a kind of early-warning system of which countries to avoid for business deals of any kind.
"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,” says José Ugaz, chair of Transparency International, which produced the index.
The lower-ranked countries in the index are plagued by "untrustworthy and badly functioning public institutions like the police and judiciary," the report notes.
Even where anti-corruption laws are on the books, "in practice they're often skirted or ignored. People frequently face situations of bribery and extortion, rely on basic services that have been undermined by the misappropriation of funds, and confront official indifference when seeking redress from authorities that are on the take."
On the bright side, Denmark was named the least corrupt country in the world, with the U.S. coming in at 18.