- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 February 14, 2003 

Decision 2003: Who will stop the corruption?

Independent experts say corruption has increased in the past five years in Armenia.

"The main perpetrators of corruption in Armenia are State officials," says a report from the Armenian branch of the Regional Development Centre (Transparency International), which conducted a survey last year to estimate the prevalence and exposure of corruption in Armenia.

The results of the survey are based on information gathered from 1,000 individuals, 200 private entrepreneurs and 200 officials.

Arevik Saribekyan, head of the Anticorruption Information Centre, summarized the results:

"Sixty-seven percent of the individuals, 41 percent of the entrepreneurs and 54 percent of the state officials who took part in the survey mentioned that the level of corruption has increased during the last five years.

"The individuals and entrepreneurs defined corruption as bribery and abuse of position. State officials added to that also 'provision of economic monopoly and other privileges, and use of the State resources for personal interest', perhaps because they are better informed on the corruption possibilities that are present in the State management system."

The part of the inquiry concerning State institutions revealed that the most corrupt are courts and prosecutors' offices. But nearly every office, from the President to the education system were considered corrupt.

The main causes of corruption, the survey found is "misuse of the law, imperfect legislation, unfavorable social-economic state, etc."

Whether the February 19th elections will contribute solutions to corruption and other problems depends entirely on the people, on the extent to which they will be able to defend their votes.

Potential voters in a ProMedia survey reflected the findings of the Transparency International study, naming corruption as a primary campaign issue.

Arman Sharafyan, 31: "We demand elimination of corruption, as our society is up to its ears in corruption."

Bardughimeos Petrosyan, 25: "The infinite amount of corruption is the reason of the worst consequences in our country. I think that insatiable people should be restrained by the power of justice and law."

Zhora Petrosyan, 68: "All bribe takers should be indiscriminately punished. When will the tradition of employing people by bribes disappear?"

Nazeli Harutyunyan: "The struggle against bribery has become fatal. What leverages does the President have and how can he struggle against bribery?"

According to Transparency International specialists, one of the most dangerous manifestations of their survey is that few said they would report incidences of corruption to corresponding bodies, as they were not sure whether the one who took the bribe or the one who gave it would be called to account.

Though the official survey and the informal media interviews show corruption as a voter concern, the issue is not a key element of candidate dialogue.

"After seeing press publications and paid telecasting I cannot tell that the candidates emphasize the struggle against corruption," says Varuzhan Hogtanyan, political expert of Armenian branch of the Regional Development Centre (Transparency International). "The candidates speak more about ensuring free and fair elections, than strategic programs."

In the opinion of specialists people's attitude towards manifestations of corruption must change before the issue itself will be resolved. Instead of blaming others each person should personally bear a responsibility for the situation in the country, they say. Otherwise no State or public project can produce results.

Citizens of the Republic will have such an opportunity on February 19, when, if history is repeated, offers will be made to buy votes for 5000 drams (about $10) or bartered for rice or oil.


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  Photo of the week
  Photo of the week: Tamper resistant?
Click on the photo above to enlarge

Tamper resistant?

Journalists flocked to Zvartnots Airport Tuesday to greet the arrival of plastic boxes, heralded by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as Armenia's first step toward "transparent" elections. The 2,000 boxes - at a cost of about $4 each - were financed by the US, Swiss, German and Norwegian governments. Newspaperman Tigran Liloyan gave one ballot bucket a test run.



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