Sunday, 6 January 2013

Swedish Russia expert: "Putin is widely seen as the main protector and beneficiary of corruption"

Swedish economist and Russia expert Anders Åslund is not optimistic about the future for Putin's Russia, and it is easy to understand why:

Corruption in Russia is certainly out of control. Investment analysts privately estimate standard kickbacks on government procurement at 70 per cent for pipelines, 50 per cent for roads and 35 per cent for medical equipment. But for all his tough talk, Putin is widely seen as the main protector and beneficiary of corruption.
For any other country, such revelations would be big news but not to the placid Russian elite. They comment privately that hundreds of billions of dollars have been stolen and the biggest culprits are much higher up in the Putin hierarchy.
In each case, the real reason for a corruption investigation appears to be that one member of the elite is attacking a weaker culprit for revenge, power or material benefit.
Given that Putin is widely considered immensely corrupt and that he has tolerated ballooning corruption for years, it is somewhat surprising that he himself has started this campaign. Some argue corruption has reached a point at which the state no longer can be managed. Others suspect Putin has lost control and that his top aides are pursuing personal vendettas. His own words suggest that he is planning a purge of the government.
The families of thousands of top officials and businessmen are already abroad and many senior people are preparing their own departure.
Putin seems to have lost his grasp, making one mistake after the other. Most recently, he punished poor Russian orphans by prohibiting their adoption by Americans. This new law would deprive at least 1000 orphans a year of a family and home, leaving them in Russia's infamously overpopulated orphanages.
Ultimately, Putin's new attitude is destabilising and not sustainable. But it is difficult to see any clear alternative. Perhaps that is why Muscovites are so grim.

Read the entire article here

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