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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Russia: The Bandit State

Transparancy International has issued it's latest evaluation of international corruption. Russia is near the top of the scale of corruption, at No. 121 out of 163 in 2006, just ahead of Rwanda and right behind Phillipines. Four years ago, it had been rated 71. In other words, it has become dramatically more corrupt under the Putin regime, despite Putin's promises to end corruption. Kazakhstan comes in at #111, still well ahead of Russia. Georgia is even further ahead, at #99. Meanwhile, the International Herald Tribune reports that Russians spend as much on bribes as they do in taxes. The paper states further:

Corrupt Russian officials are estimated to take bribes of US$240 billion (€189 billion) a year, an amount almost equal to the state's entire revenues, a senior prosecutor said in an interview with the government daily printed Tuesday. His comments marked the first time a senior Russian official had publicly put a monetary figure on the problem of corruption in Russia, which has flourished since Czarist times but has markedly increased in recent years under President Vladimir Putin. Putin, a former KGB colonel, was elected in 2000 promising to set Russia on the path to modernization and impose a "dictatorship of the law" to eliminate graft. But anti-corruption campaigners say the state-driven assault launched in mid-2003 against now jailed billionaire tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his Yukos oil giant gave bureaucrats at all levels of government a green light to extort money from businesses. A study published in September 2005 by the respected Indem Institute concluded that bribes paid by businesses to police, licensing bodies and state inspectors had soared by nearly 10 times between 2001 and 2005 to US$316 billion (€249 billion). Indem head Georgy Satarov said that the government's decision to shine a spotlight on its anti-corruption efforts appeared to be aimed at voters ahead of national parliamentary elections next year and the 2008 presidential vote. But he said that the gradual erosion of democratic checks and balances that has taken place under Putin — the squeezing of opposition parties, the independent media and civil society — made it impossible to rein in greedy Russian bureaucrats.
It's highly ironic that Vladimir Putin has spent so much time publicly referring to "bandits" in Chechnya when in fact he is surrounded by a clan of bandits in the Kremlin.

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