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Medvedev And Corruption – OpEd

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Today our President Dmitry Medvedev once again spoke out against the scourge of corruption and the lack of rule of law in the Russian Federation.  It was typical kind of speech we come to expect from him:  forthright, unobjectionable, but insincere only from the perspective that other elements of the system around him continue to refuse reform in favor of preserving self-interest.

But Medvedev has a special, if not complicated, relationship with the corruption problem.  For example, a few months ago he met with chief of the control administration of his administration Konstantin Chuychenko, who reported that about $860 million had been lost to corruption on housing and utilities in the Central Federal District in the past two years alone.

If we do some math, taking into account all eight federal districts, then we get closer to understanding the sheer immensity of corruption under the Putin-Medvedev governance model.  And as such, we might understand the value of Medvedev’s words about the necessity to fight back.

Corruption in the sphere of the housing and utilities sector has always existed, but never in history has it reached such a large scope. This past January the procuracy-general reported that numerous municipalities were unilaterally and unlawfully exaggerating service tariffs of the housing and utilities sector. And what changed? Nothing!

The fact is that every year from the first of January in Russia traditionally the rates for services in the sphere of the housing and utilities sector are raised. And nobody has ever explained to people why this takes place.

In November of the year 2010, conducting a session of the presidium of the State Council in Syktyvkar, Medvedev pronounced that the housing and utilities sector needs to be reformed with intelligence.  He warned that otherwise a catastrophe will befall the country as a result of the disorder and corruption of this sector.

I’m afraid that Mr. Chuychenko could have reported to the president with the same kind of success about how in all the spheres in the country – there is laxity and disorder. While we’re on the subject, Chuychenko did tell Medvedev about how, bureaucrats, apparently, are cashing in on kickbacks for certain kinds of construction materials, acquired for the construction projects for the Winter Olympic games, slated for the year 2014 in Sochi.

We identified unpleasant facts, connected with price-formation for granular materials – sand-and-gravel mix, crushed stone“, – said Chuychenko. As a check showed, the price for these materials grew from 360 to 800 rubles per ton, at the same time as on average throughout the country it comprises 250-400 rubles. “This doesn’t squeeze through any gates“, he said.

On account of the gates he overstated a bit: it squeezes through, oh how it squeezes through. Because the head corruptioneers sit not in the system of the housing and utilities sector, and not in the construction companies. You need to start from the very top: take a look at how and why the friends and acquaintances of Vladimir Putin suddenly became multi-millionaires out of the blue; what monopolists, ones like Gazprom, Russian Railroads, represent of themselves…

Last year representatives of the “Solidarity” opposition movement Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov published the report “Putin. Results. 10 years“, dedicated to the results of the activity of Vladimir Putin during the time of his sojourn in power in the capacity of president, and subsequently prime-minister of Russia.

In this report they write: «One of the black results of the rule of Vladimir Putin became the plunging of Russia into a hopelessly lightless abyss of corruption. Worst of all is that in Russia corruption has become factually legalized in the upper echelons of power. Old friends of Putin’s, who before his come to power were nobodies, — Gennady Timchenko, Yuri Kovalchuk, the brothers Rotenberg — have been transformed into dollar billionaires. It is unsurprising that the country is beginning to copy the model of behavior of its leader. Already in the year 2000 we were found in 82nd place in the Transparency International (a non-governmental international organization for the struggle with corruption and researching the level of corruption in the whole world) global rating of the level of corruption. The country was strongly corrupted.

In the year 2009 Russia rolled down substantially lower — to 146th place. Our neighbours in the rating — Cameroon, Ecuador, Kenya, Sierra-Leone, East Timor, Zimbabwe. Even Georgia outstrips us a lot in the rating — she is in 61st place. Over the years of Putin’s rule the social stratification in the country has grown by 15%. In the crisis year of 2009 the number of dollar billionaires doubles, in so doing 18.5 mln people are living below the poverty line, unemployment reached a level of 9% while the wages and salaries of budgeteers [civil service employees–Trans.] are frozen.

Against the background of a deficit budget and screaming poverty multi-billion frauds are being implemented: a winter Olympiad in the subtropics in Sochi; the gas pipelines «Nord stream» and «South stream», as well as «Altai»; the conducting of an APEC summit on the island of Russky…»

As we can see, Chuychenko merely confirmed to Medvedev something that is long known to all. And what about Medvedev? Why, nothing! It looks like he’s in condition only to occasionally pronounce words along the lines of “laxity” and “disorder”. There is no need to await more from him.

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Grigory Pasko

Grigory Pasko is a Russian journalist and publisher of an environmental magazine. In November 1997 Pasko was arrested by FSB agents in Vladivostok and accused of espionage for publications on the environmental problems in the Japanese sea but found not guilty due to lack of evidence. He was found guilty of “abuse of his official position,” but released immediately under a general amnesty. He was recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. His articles appear at Robert Amsterdam's website (http://www.robertamsterdam.com) and are reprinted with permission.

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