BERLIN, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Denmark is the world least corrupt country, followed by New Zealand and Finland, according to a ranking unveiled by Berlin-based Transparency International in its latest report.

According to the annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of 2018, Denmark leads the CPI ranking scoring 88 out of 100 points. New Zealand and Finland followed at the second and third place. Somalia ranked last with 10 points, behind South Sudan and Syria.

Globally, the situation would be "grim", Transparency International announced, as over two thirds of evaluated countries scored below 50 points, while the average score remained at last year's level of only 43 points.

The countries which improved the most since 2012 were Estonia, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and Guyana. Perceived corruption in Australia, Chile and Malta increased especially high in the latest CPI ranking. The United States were listed among the "countries to watch". Ranked the 22nd, the United States dropped out of the top 20 on the CPI for the first time since 2011 and lost 4 points in comparison to last year.

The "United States is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balances as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power," the organization pointed out.

Also among among the "countries to watch," Brazil dropped two points since last year to 35, reaching its lowest CPI score in seven years.

Noting a connection between "healthy democracies" and "successfully fighting corruption" in the public sector, Delia Ferreira Rubio, chairwoman of Transparency International, said, "Corruption is much more likely to flourish where democratic foundations are weak."

In its 2018 index, the global corruption watchdog ranked 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, using a scale of 1 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 means very clean.