That’s the number of countries on this planet, out of 180 surveyed by Transparency International, which just published its most recent results, that are more corrupt than Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
It’s a truly staggering number. It means that 83% of the world’s nations are less corrupt than Putin’s Russia. It means that Russia, which makes pretensions to international leadership and membership on the G-8 panel, ranks in the bottom quintile of all world countries, including the most backwards and least-developed African banana republics. It means that, in terms of civilized behavior, Russia is a wasteland.
Georgia, relentlessly castigated by Russians as being totally corrupt, ranks #66 on the list. Russia is #146, tied with Ukraine and right behind Azerbaijan. Pakistan is significantly less corrupt than Russia. So are Uganda and Nigeria. The United States is #19.
Writing in the Moscow Times, hero journalist Yulia Latynina makes these statistics indelibly real:
Consider an ordinary example — the price of housing. The standard rule is that the price per square meter for an apartment equals one or two times the amount of an average salary. With salaries averaging $500 to $1,000 per month, apartments should cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per square meter. In fact, they cost an average of $5,000 per square meter these days. That is five to 10 times higher than they should cost.
It is obvious that the price of apartments in Moscow reflects the amount that builders must pay in bribes to the officials. Contractors must fork over enormous sums simply to obtain the necessary permits, and those costs are reflected in the selling price. Also, the officials receiving the bribes do not invest their income in their businesses (their chief “business” is extorting bribes). Instead, they go out and buy more apartments, only fueling the cycle of ever-increasing prices.
Let’s look at another example — airplane tickets. I recently paid $500 for a five-hour flight from Moscow to Madrid in economy class on Iberia Airlines. Before that, I paid about $950 for a three-hour flight from Novosibirsk to Chita. The math is simple: domestic flights cost two to three times what comparable flights abroad cost.
And what about medicine? A pharmaceutical drug that I buy in Europe for 50 euros costs exactly twice that amount in Russia.
Latynina observes: “Bribery accounts for at least 50 percent — and more likely 70 to 80 percent — of GDP. That cost rivals the 70 percent to 80 percent of GDP that the defense budget accounted for in the Soviet Union of the 1980s.”
No nation can survive fundamental corruption this epic. The USSR could not, and neither can Russia. But the difference is that today the people of Russia are directly and immediately to blame, and cannot claim they are victims of the horrible disaster about to befall them.