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By Hovannes Shoghikian
Most Armenians regard their government’s stated fight against corruption as ineffective and believe the illegal practice will become even more widespread in the years to come, according to a new opinion poll made public on Thursday.

The poll was part of an annual report on corruption practices around the world conducted by Transparency International, the Berlin-based anti-graft watchdog. Its latest Global Corruption Barometer is based on population surveys conducted in more than 60 countries, including Armenia, with the aim of gauging their citizens’ perceptions and experiences of corruption.

According to the leaders of Transparency’s Armenian affiliate, the Center for Regional Development (CRD), 54 percent of some 2,800 Armenians randomly interviewed by the U.S. Gallup organization last summer believe the scale of bribery, nepotism and other corrupt practices in their country will increase in the next three years. Only 20 percent of them predicted a decline in graft, said Varuzhan Hoktanian, the CRD’s deputy chairman.

The figures reflect widespread public skepticism about crackdowns on corruption repeatedly announced by the Armenian authorities in recent years. Hoktanian said 54 of those polled think those efforts have produced no tangible results, compared with 28 percent claiming the opposite. Respondents described the judiciary, police, the tax inspectorate and universities as the most corrupt institutions.

The government unveiled in late 2003 and claims to have successfully implemented a three-year plan of actions aimed at tackling the problem. However, there is little evidence that the set of mainly legislative measures has had a major impact on the situation on the ground. A separate poll released by the CRD early this year found that most Armenians feel that government corruption has actually increased in recent years.

That appears to explain why Armenia ranked 99th out of 180 nations covered in the most recent Corruption Perceptions Index, another Transparency International survey conducted on an annual basis. Even so, it was judged to be less corrupt than most other former Soviet states, including Russia and Azerbaijan.

(Photolur photo: Varuzhan Hoktanian, right, and Amalia Kostanian, the CRD chairwoman, present the poll's findings at a news conference.)
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