By Atom Markarian
An independent study has exposed widespread skepticism about the success of the Armenian government’s stated anti-corruption drive.
According to an opinion poll conducted by the Democratic Forum, an Armenian non-governmental organization, two out of three Armenian business people believe that the authorities are not committed to combating widespread bribery, nepotism and unfair competition. They also admitted paying bribes to government officials.
“For them the bribe is a means for avoiding bureaucratic red tape and, in some cases, floating the laws which, as we know, are not perfect,” one of the authors of the study told a seminar in Yerevan on Friday.
Several hundred big and small entrepreneurs questioned by the pollsters rated Armenian customs as the most corrupt government agency they have dealt with. The government’s tax collection agency and the office of prosecutor-general are also perceived to be very corrupt, according to the poll.
About 75 percent of respondents said they are ready to pay higher taxes to promote better governance.
Last May the government received a $345,000 grant from the World Bank to draw up a comprehensive program to eradicate corrupt practices, which are seen as a serious obstacle to the country’s economic development. The government has said recently that the program will be ready no later than next August.
However, no senior Armenian government official has been prosecuted on corruption charges yet.