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23.9.11

Corruption by the Numbers

 Garen Yegparian

We hear a lot about corruption, and see various forms of it in our daily lives. Sadly, in some places, such as Armenia, it is present at a disturbing, probably economically disruptive, scale.
For the last two decades, Transparency International and Goettingen University have compiled a “Corruption Perception Index” which is a “poll of polls” as they describe it. They amass others’ studies of corruption in countries throughout the world and produce an annual tabulation of countries with a rating, on a scale of 0-10, where 10 means corruption free and 0 totally corrupt. They require that a minimum of three (formerly four) surveys/studies include a country for that to be included in their index. They have used at least twelve surveys/studies since 1999 (earlier years had fewer). Polling done over the preceding three years is considered valid for inclusion in any year’s compilation. For these reasons, they caution that year-to-year comparisons should not be made easily. But take a look at the accompanying table, and you’ll note the trends in our homeland and its neighbors are pretty consistent.

Russia and Iran don’t fare well, as you can see in the table which lists each country’s rank and score by year. But more embarrassing is that Georgia and Turkey both seem “cleaner” than the Republic of Armenia (RoA). This is particularly painful since Georgia started out roughly equal to RoA. Azerbaijan turns out to be perceived as more corrupt than Armenia, no surprise, given its de facto hereditary monarchic system of government. But even relative to Azerbaijan, RoA is poised for embarrassment since the former has been steadily improving while the latter, though improving initially, has been getting worse since 2008.
This is not good. It makes people’s lives miserable. It creates an uncertain business climate. It gives our opponents ammunition when Diasporans worldwide try to support Armenia through advocacy in their host country capitals. And, while it can’t all be pinned on Serzh Sarkissian, at this point, given the timing of the downward trend in “cleanliness” and his 2008 election, much blame can be laid at his feet.
In these celebratory days of RoA’s twentieth birthday, we must not be blinded to the problems that must be solved for the country to truly progress. Perhaps President Sarkissian should be reminded of that lofty office’s duty to the people during his visit to the United States this week.
It’s our job not only to support Armenia, but to be the eyes that see and ears that hear things that our landlocked-homeland-dwelling-compatriots are less likely to perceive. It is our moral duty to do so. Let’s not be derelict in helping clean up corruption in Armenia. Raise your voices against this blight. Let Sarkissian know how you feel.
"Asbarez" (Los Angeles)

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