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The Sakhalin Times: Corruption is here to stay in Sakhalin

24 September 2007

In an unprecedented case, a traffic policeman was sentenced to two years in prison for extorting a bribe from a motorist. The court ruling, which was termed as harsh by some, is a step in the right direction. For starters, it sends the right message to traffic policemen across the city that there will be no tolerance for corruption.

With new laws stipulating higher fines for those that break traffic rules, many Sakhaliners may actually just be tempted to pay a smaller bribe than the fine. Such people should also bear the full brunt of the law.  Fighting traffic police corruption is like fighting drug traffic – revenues exceed all possible risks. The only effective way against this kind of corruption is punishing drivers as well as policemen. Giving a bribe is as serious a felony as taking one.

In the central Russian town of Vladimir, a television campaign in 2006 warned drivers, “Every time you try to bribe a traffic policeman there’s one to twenty chance that you’re bargaining with an anti-corruption squad agent under cover.” The effect was unimaginable! Even when real corrupt policemen tried to harass drivers it was considered a provocation and poor drivers held their ground.

Corruption is an epidemic in Sakhalin and has spread like a malignant tumor across the region over the last few years. It is amazing how far black money can get a person or a company in Sakhalin. Although many believe that corruption only exists in the government offices, the disease is well-spread in the private sector as well. One expat businessmen trying to set up operations last summer told this publication that when doing business with many companies in Sakhalin, he felt that he was in some sort of Russian Nigeria.

Sting operations are needed across the spectrum in Sakhalin and examples need to be made of those indulging in corruption but this may still not crush corruption as the laws and bureaucracy is structured in a way to support corruption. It is possible to do almost everything legally, but it can mean spending half of your working hours collecting documentation, having things stamped, taking it somewhere. For almost any procedure there is a parallel structure that offers services – a kind of shadow economy within the overall economy that substitutes the same services quicker but illegally – although often quite openly. Without reforming the system, corruption is very much here to stay.

Posted September 24, 2007

http://www.thesakhalintimes.com/news/4/1/1583.html

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