Serbian Corruption Endemic

A decade of the Milosevic regime has left a society mired in corruption

Serbian Corruption Endemic

A decade of the Milosevic regime has left a society mired in corruption

Tuesday, 6 September, 2005

Over half of the Serbian population believe bribery is part and parcel of daily life, according to a study by the Belgrade-based Centre for Policy Studies.

Although 80 per cent of the 1,600 respondents said they disapproved of greasing palms, 60 per cent felt it was only way of getting anything done, the study revealed.

It seems envelopes filled with dinars, or nowadays German marks, are a pre-requisite for anything from seeing a doctor, finding a job to enrolling your child at university.

And where cash is short, goods will do. A patient at Belgrade hospital recently found a freshly slaughtered piglet in the boot of his car. An absent-minded peasant had apparently intended it as a bribe for the head nurse but had left it in the wrong car.

Twenty-five per cent of respondents admitted to having bribed someone at least once. About the same number said they would consider slipping someone money if they thought they could do something important for them. As many as 70 per cent said they would make illicit payments for medical services for children or parents.

Over 30 per cent believe the times are such that they are forced to demand bribes for things they would normally provide freely.

Researchers found that no profession in Serbia was immune to corruption. Respondents believe the worst culprits were the customs service, followed by the state leadership and the health-care system. Nearly 70 per cent believe that the majority of clerks are prone to venality.

Seven out of ten people felt cheating was the basis of the relationship between the citizen and the state. "The key finding of the survey is that people are getting used to corruption and bribery," said sociologist, Dr Srecko Mihailovic, "It is one more symptom of our sick society."

An integral part of the survey dealt with public attitudes towards smuggling - which has become a means of survival for many people over the last decade of economic crisis. Over half the respondents said it was morally acceptable. Around a one in five felt the same way about tax evasion.

In a country where values have been turned upside down, around 70 per cent of respondents believe that only cheats and criminals fare well in Serbian society and about the same number felt that people respect the law only when it suited them.

Around 30 per cent of respondents imagined there would be less corruption under a different regime. But just as many thought the opposition coming to power would make little difference.

Roughly 40 per cent of those who expressed support for the current administration believed it to be very corrupt. The view was shared, unsurprisingly, by 90 per cent of opposition sympathisers.

Vesna Bjekic is a journalist from Belgrade

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