Bangladesh faces significant challenges as one of the poorest countries in the world. On top of this, corruption is endemic, the rule of law is weak, and there is limited bureaucratic transparency. During the last decade, the government of Bangladesh established legislation to combat different forms of corruption, including bribery, embezzlement, and money laundering. It has also attempted to address the culture of impunity by prosecuting corrupt officials and strengthening the country's Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and the current Awami-league government has publicly emphasised its commitment to combat corruption and the need of a strong ACC. Nevertheless, as noted by the US Department of State 2013, enforcement remains inconsistent. As a result, pervasive corruption, patronage, and the misallocation of resources have prevented the country from making a more significant developmental leap.
The Government of Bangladesh fought hard against the extremely high levels of corruption that have placed the country at or near the bottom of numerous transparency and corruption indices for several years. The interim government acceded to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in February 2007. In the same year, the interim government also launched a campaign against corruption, resulting in the sentencing of many businesspeople, high-level political figures, and their family members for corruption and other illegal acts by special anti-corruption courts, set up to deal with the many corruption cases. This included charges against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, and around 150 other high-ranking political figures. The corruption charges against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina were dropped in May 2010, due to lack of evidence. In August 2011, an arrest warrant was issued for Tarique Rahman, son of the former Prime Minister, on charges of money laundering. Despite these initiatives, the Bertelsmann Foundation 2012 notes that the anti-corruption drive initiated by the caretaker government (2007-2008) has begun to falter due to a political deadlock between the opposition and the ruling party. The report further notes that political parties generally are not wholehearted in their rhetoric about the elimination of corruption and are not inclined to develop institutional mechanisms to address the problem sufficiently. Accordingly, the country has not witnessed any dramatic changes for the better in the culture of corruption.
Given a political environment rife with corruption, business executives surveyed in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013 report that the level of public trust in politicians is very low. Similarly, according to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer 2013, the Bangladeshi political parties are widely perceived by the surveyed households to be corrupt. Only 22% of households evaluated the government’s anti-corruption initiatives as ‘effective’, while 60% of the surveyed perceive the level of corruption in Bangladesh to have increased over the past three years. This relative public disillusion with politics and corruption was further hampered when it was revealed in June 2012, that the World Bank would cancel a USD 1.2 billion loan to build the country's largest bridge, citing corruption concerns. According to a June 2012 article by the Wall Street Journal, the World Bank suspended its funding due to allegations that two former executives of the Canadian engineering and construction company, SNC-Lavalin, bribed Bangladeshi government officials to win a contract related to the construction of the bridge (read more about this case in this Profile's Public Procurement and Contracting Section). The cancellation of the loan and growing concerns over graft and corruption in the country, according to the article, could hamper the country's ability to attract foreign aid and investment.