By Ruzanna Stepanian
Nearly two in three residents of Yerevan are unaware of the Armenian government’s much-publicized plan to combat endemic corruption, according to an opinion poll conducted by a local non-governmental organization.
The group called European Integration said on Friday that only 37 percent of 500 people randomly interviewed by its researchers know of the anti-corruption strategy unveiled last year and that most of them believe it will not be successfully implemented. It said many of the skeptics argued that the authorities are themselves corrupt and disinterested in good governance.
“The main reason for this sentiment is a lack of public confidence in the consistency and sincerity of government actions,” the chairman of European Integration, Karen Bekarian, said, presenting the findings of the survey.
The strategy in question was drawn up by a team of government experts after almost two years of work funded by the World Bank. It contains a long list of mostly legislative measures which the Armenian authorities are to take in the next three years. The authorities say those will complicate endemic bribery, nepotism and other corrupt practices. But their critics dismiss the document as a public relations stunt meant to mislead Western donors.
In an apparent effort to dispel the skepticism, President Robert Kocharian set up last month a high-level government body tasked with overseeing the implementation of the anti-corruption plan. The Council on Combating Corruption headed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian in turn formed a “monitoring commission” which is supposed to look into the problem and suggest solutions.
However, the success of the undertaking was called into question last month by a senior official from Transparency International, the Berlin-based global anti-graft watchdog. Miklos Marschall, Transparency International’s regional director for Europe and Central Asia, argued that Markarian’s council is not independent and that there have been virtually no cases of senior Armenian officials prosecuted for corrupt practices.
Bekarian, whose organization stands for Armenia’s deeper integration into European structures, agreed that the lack of high-profile corruption cases only contributes to the widespread public cynicism. In his words, about one third of the poll respondents said it is impossible to root out corruption, while 67 percent believe that international organizations can not of much help in ensuring the rule of law in Armenia.