Friday, 28 December 2012

Corruption in Putin's Russia will not end before Putin himself ends up on trial

John Lloyd, Director of Journalism at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Jornalism at Oxford University, has written an interesting article on corruption in Putin's Russia, one of the most corrupt countries in the world:

The INDEM think tank in Moscow, run by Georgy Satarov, a former aide to President Boris Yeltsin, estimates that corruption costs the country $300 billion to 500 billion a year. With a gross domestic product of some $1.5 trillion, that is up to one-third of the economy. Meanwhile, capital flight last year came in at $84 billion, double that in 2010 and is still, it seems, increasing.

Putin is not thought to be far from the trough. There are allegations from the political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky that the president's personal pile is more than $30 billion, though these estimates are unsourced and seem politically biased. (Belkovsky is an associate of the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, an enemy of the president.) More to the point, perhaps, was a report by the opposition leader Boris Nemtsov that the official trappings of the president included private, expensively tailored aircraft, 20 residences, four yachts and almost $700,000 worth of watches - the lifestyle of a billionaire. On these allegations, the Kremlin responds with silence, or a curt denial. --
Putin, in his state-of-the-nation speech last week, sought not only to pledge to fight corruption and end the impression of the elite being "an isolated caste" but also to laud Russia's "state civilization, unified by the Russian people, Russian language and Russian culture which  unites us, does not allow us to dissolve." Yet the "dissolving" of Russia will not come, as he claims, from the imperialist designs of a hypocritical West but from the challenges - in shrinking population, polluted cities, groaning infrastructure, gross inequalities  and vast corruption. To deal with those, the Russian leader needs to be part of a global solution. For the moment, though, he isolates himself in the very problem he needs to fix.
However, Lloyd thoroughly disappoints his readers when he thinks that Putin could deal with corruption and the other problems by becoming "part of a global solution" (whatever that is). The distinguished journalist must know that Putin's campaign against corruption is nothing but a sham. The former second rate KGB agent, one of the most corrupt world leaders, can be part of the solution only when he himself ends up on trial. The time for that trial will come, but not quite yet. 

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