Friday, June 27, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Corruption in Russia Increased Ten-Fold Under Putin, INDEM Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, June 27 – Russia became so corrupt during the years of Vladimir Putin’s presidency that Dmitry Medvedev’s much ballyhooed plan to combat it is certain to fail and may even have the effect of pushing the level of corruption there still higher, according to specialists on economic crimes and private businessmen in that country.
At a roundtable yesterday at the Moscow Institute of Contemporary Development, Georgy Satarov , the head of the INDEM Center which tracks official malfeasance, said that corruption had increased ten-fold during Putin’s years in office to a level that makes fighting it successfully difficult if not impossible (
The very “pomposity” of Medvedev’s declarations on this struggle, Satarov continued, may in fact serve as a stimulus to even more corruption. Such “ritualistic” words are at best only “a technology for the external control of the bureaucracy,” something the incumbent president needs but that most people in the bureaucracy certainly do not want.
Consequently, he concluded, he remained “pessimistic” about the prospects for success in this struggle, especially since neither Medvedev himself nor his subordinates had “explained its nature” to the population in ways that will mobilize them to take the steps necessary to overcome the plague that Putin’s approach spread through Russian life.
Igor Bunin, the president of the Center for Political Technologies, seconded Satarov’s words. Any fight against corruption, he suggested, “in a mono-centric state without freedom of the press or a multi-party struggle [against this phenomenon] is condemned to defeat” from the very start.
And Elena Panfilova of Transparency International-Russia said that Medvedev and his team will have to do more than just announce a campaign. If they hope to achieve anything, they will have to make the bureaucracy more transparent, the laws more regularly enforced, and the values of the bureaucrats themselves very different than they have been up to now.
All three of these speakers have a long history of skepticism about Russian government campaigns against corruption, and consequently, many will be inclined to dismiss their arguments this week as nothing more than a rehash of what they and other anti-corruption specialists concluded long ago.
But another speaker at yesterday’s meeting comes from a very different background and presented a very different perspective on the current anti-corruption campaign. Grigory Tomchin, the president of the All-Russian Association of Privatized and Private Firms, said that he believes Medvedev’s effort will only lead to “an increase in bribes.”
“If the mechanism of passing laws does not change” from what it is in Russia today, he said, then “it will always have a corrupt outcome.” Every bill is reviewed in a variety of bureaucracies, each of which works hard to ensure that no measure will complicate its work or make “its activity more transparent.”
And consequently, in the absence of a political will from above, this arrangement will continue and mean that whatever the Kremlin says, a genuine “struggle against corruption” will not take place in Russia. Instead, there will simply be thrown up a kind of smokescreen to cover that will deceive few people about what will almost certainly will continue to go on.

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