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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

Society saturated by corruption

It does not take much to persuade one of the merchants at an open market on Moscow´s Leninski Prospekt to discuss her experiences of the corruptability of Russian civil servants. "We have no free health care. We need to give money or gifts. Otherwise we get no treatment", says the blanket seller who calls herself Natasha. Her colleague Radmila says that she had to give up her studies in commerce and administration because she could not afford the extra pay demanded by the teachers. "For an interim exam we had to pay 30 dollars, and for a final exam for a course we had to pay 50 dollars. With five major exams and eight smaller ones in a term, studies became too expensive for me", Radmila calculated. Strangely enough, she does not seem bitter: "Why should I be hurt or complain? In Russia everyone has to pay extra to the officials", the young woman says. In the spring a study was conducted in Moscow at the initiative of the World Bank, aimed at ascertaining how far corruption has spread through Russian society. The survey was conducted by the Moscow-based Indem Foundation, which interviewed experts from various fields, as well as 700 influential business figures, and more than 2,000 ordinary citizens. The results will be printed in a book this autumn. The findings have come as a shock to many. The researchers found that health care and education are the areas in which ordinary citizens most frequently have to pay bribes. The authors estimate that to manage with all of their everyday problems, Russians have to pay a total of 2.8 billion dollars a year More than a third of those answering the questionnaire said that they had been asked for a bribe in order to get health care. Of those about half were either unwilling or unable to pay the bribe. The researchers calculate that about 12 million Russians each year are denied necessary health care because they cannot afford to bribe their doctors. The study also finds that of those who entered university last year, 46% were able to get through the entrance exam without paying a bribe. Of the rest, one third, more than 300,000, paid sweeteners in the form of "necessary" private tutoring or special prep courses. One in six paid cold hard cash directly to the university administration in order to study. Studying was most expensive for students of law, economics, and medicine at Moscow State University. Students had to pay between 12,000 and 25,000 dollars to study there. Indem director Georgi Satarov said in the newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta last week that things in Russia had got to a state in which bribery services have reached all sectors of life. Bribery is the most organised in the Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, where members have set tariffs lists for available services. For instance, getting a bill onto the Parliamentary agenda costs 250,000 dollars. It usually takes 30,000 dollars to persuade the chairman of a committee to support a particular initiative. According to the report, corruption can increase the earnings of a parliamentarian on an important committee by a factor of 15 to 20. For instance, a member of the Duma´s budget committee can earn about 300,000 dollars a year in bribes. The Duma´s professional lobbyists are very well organised. They keep a list of the most "efficient" members - those who deliver the best results in proportion to the money invested. According to the Indem report, the most popular targets for Duma lobbyists are issues related to the state budget, the Ukraine gas debt, and special rights of the regions. Regional leaders interviewed by the researchers generally felt that lobbying and bribery were practical ways of maintaining relations with the Parliament of the Russian Federation. Because of the in-built corruption, there was no need to establish a long-term working relationship with a parliamentarian. "It is easier to buy them", said one of those interviewed. The bribes paid by businesses to officials is a chapter of its own. According to the report, Russian companies paid a total of 33.5 billion dollars in bribes. The corruption is most intense in the purchase of export licences, in transferring budget money to regions, the setting of corporate taxes for state-owned companies, the taxation and customs services, and in international barter trade.

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