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Medvedev says anti-corruption struggle yields results, experts disagree

March 23, 2012, 15:48 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev believes that the crusade against corruption he declared four years ago has yielded some results, although the problem has failed to be “minimized radically.” It cannot be resolved within a certain deadline, anyway, the head of state argues.

Experts say, though, the situation is close to a stalemate, adding that over the years of Medvedev’s presidency it has undergone no change. They believe it is wrong to think that the struggle against corruption is a lengthy process, not easily noticeable at once.

Dmitry Medvedev, who made the struggle against corruption a priority of his policy back during the presidential election campaign of 2008, six weeks before the end of his term has looked back on what has been achieved to discuss the further measures to uproot this social ill. On Thursday, he held a second meeting with the experts of the working group, established under his special decree, which presented a vast report entitled Anticorruption. The authors believe that kickbacks in doing business in Russia and in providing state services account for one or two percent of the GDP. Experts say “corruption is a tax on the future of Russia.” “Without it we might be growing at a rate of six percent, and not four.”

The rector of the Russian School of Economics, Sergei Guriyev, presented the results of sociological opinion polls. The worst corruption is in the road police and in the system of secondary and higher education. Besides, corruption remains the main problem for doing business in Russia.

“Corruption has become such a major factor of Russian life that pinpoint measures against it are doomed to fail,” he said. “According to international ratings Russia’s corruption is as bad as Zimbabwe’s.” As a result, foreign investors regard Russia as a country where it makes no sense to do business. Capital leaves together with highly skilled personnel and businessmen, who see no chances of displaying their potential here. In Russia, corruption bars many citizens from good education, health care and security,” he said.

According to the director for macroeconomic studies at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics, Sergei Aleksashenko, “society wants to be sure the supreme authorities in the country are honest.” “Media publications about the personal interests of government ministers, their deputies, and directors of departments should not be left unnoticed,” he said. “The net effect is the people do not believe the authorities and are afraid of turning to the police for help.”

According to a poll by the Public Opinion fund, 81% of citizens believe the level of corruption in the country is high. In 2010 this view was shared by 75% of the polled.

Medvedev dismissed the ever more frequent criticism against him to the effect the struggle against corruption is much talked about, but with no apparent result. Medvedev explained that when he raised that theme to the highest level for the first time four years ago, nobody had any illusions the problem would be “radically minimized” over several years. However, in his opinion “these years were not in vain.” There has been created a legislative basis for fighting corruption, although not an ideal one.

First and foremost, a major decision was made to control the spending and incomes of civil servants. Last year such information was declared by 1.2 million people. But in more than 22,000 cases the information declared proved incomplete or false. Those civil servants who declared wrong information about their incomes must be dismissed, Medvedev said with certainty.

However, the head of state arrived at this sad conclusion: “The first income declaration campaign has yielded an effect that is close to zero, and there is no certainty that a second declaration campaign will be more effective.” As follows from what he said, one of the main problems is the officials’ reluctance to disclose all information. “Ok, you were afraid to declare incomes for the first time, we shall give you a second chance. But if you fail to do that again, we shall certainly crack down on one and all,” he warned.

The corruption situation in Russia over the years of Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency has remained practically unchanged, says a member of the investment committee of the Russian Chamber of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Anton Danilov-Danilyan, who is quoted by the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He is certain the procedure of decision-making by civil servants must leave no loopholes for corruption.

However, he approves of Medvedev’s initiatives. At the same time, Danilov-Danilyan complains that “businesses themselves are rather passive – they are to be angered strongly enough to begin to complain.” For the time being Russian businesses prefer to resolve their problems with the help of bribes, he acknowledged.

The author of the book entitled Why in Georgia it Worked, Larisa Burakova, indirectly objects to Medvedev’s arguments. Burakova, a researcher at the institute of economic analysis, says in the daily Vedomosti that Medvedev’s National Plan for Resistance to Corruption in 2012-2013, approved on March 13, is at best a declaration of intent. She argues that the idea of anti-corruption struggle as a prolonged process, not easily noticeable at once, is very wrong.

Burakova compares the situation with that in modern Georgia using just one example, that of the reform of the police force. The Georgian people’s confidence in the police has soared to 87% in 2011 from a tiny 5% in 2003.

Burakova says the main principle of the struggle against corruption is the full abolition of inefficient institutions. In the next move an environment of zero tolerance to corruption must be created. One more effective method of struggle against corruption is the ‘carrot’ - in contrast to the ‘stick’. In other words, better pay and equipment.

“The main factors for success are the political will and comprehensiveness,” the expert said.

MOSCOW, March 23