- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2009

Maybe we’re naïve, but we take Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at his word that he will publicly declare (all) his income and assets, and that of his relatives, as an example in a country where corruption is rampant.

Prosecutors filed charges last year against 12,000 officials accused of corruption, and one prosecutor said government officials’ income from corruption is equal to about one-third of the national budget. Russia ranks near Bangladesh, Kenya and Syria on a global corruption index of the watchdog group Transparency International. Official corruption has increased since Vladimir Putin‘s eight-year tenure as president and now prime minister. Putin tightened state control over the economy and restricted post-Soviet freedoms.

New laws that require disclosing family members’ holdings were instituted to try to patch loopholes in older laws, but Medvedev acknowledged that corrupt officials still use proxies to hide assets, or send their gains offshore. He said at a Kremlin meeting that progress in fighting corruption has so far been “extremely modest” and that there is still no mechanism to check and verify the declarations that officials make.

Officials such as fire and sanitary inspectors, tax authorities and others shake down entrepreneurs; police solicit bribes by citing drivers for phony violations; hospital patients pay doctors for better care; parents bribe teachers for better grades for their children. Needless to say, this is antithetical to a vibrant, democratic Russia, which is in the best interest of the United States and the world. As Medvedev put it, “… corruption starts at grassroot level and spreads to the very top. We must cut its roots, because when people see these things happening everywhere they lose heart.”

That sounds somewhat familiar.

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