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Glasnost today
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-12-09 09:13:55
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Transparency was a new word and probably a new world that entered our lives sometime back in late 80s thanks to the last soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev and apparently the Russian word, glasnost it was the one that made us realize the role of transparency in our lives and our societies.

Mikhail Gorbachev in his desperate effects to save the last of the falling apart state found out that the real enemy was not external but from the inside and it was the corruption that had conquered the nation in all levels of the society and mainly the highest levels of the ruling oligarchy. Apparently the dream of a republic ruled by the workers with equal rights had turned into a nightmarish dictatorship ruled by the very few with big bank accounts in Switzerland and other exotic places. Mikhail Gorbachev started his war against corruption but soon he lost because corruption had entered every single part of the soviet life and it had become the most powerful element, so powerful that in the end people like Gorbachev had become pure puppets.

Unfortunately for the Russian people the end of Mikhail Gorbachev’s era and in extent the end of the Soviet Union didn’t mark the end of the corruption, on the contrary the party’s corruption moved in a new level, into organized crime that held even the next Russian president, Yeltsin for prisoner and the fight still continues. but I wasn’t aiming into writing something about the Russian mafia or the history of the soviet corruption but I think Russia is the best example to what cornucopian can do and where it can lead even a nation that was supposedly a superpower and one of the two big players on the future of this world.

Corruption there is and there is in every level of our life we like it or not and it has to do with bribing anybody to do better what they are otherwise obliged to do. Of course it gets more painful when that includes the state and the people who are obliged to work for the common good but that doesn’t mean that there is no corruption in all levels of our lives or that corruption is only characteristic of dictatorial regimes.

The last two decades there is an international survey coming out ones a year pointing the levels of corruption there is in every country actually pointing nations with most and less corruption. The survey makes sense to some levels and doesn’t help in many others. The survey is the result of a multi-questioner that is answered from a certain amount of people in every country and these people are coming from different education and financial parts of the local society. The mistake of the survey and the way we actually deal with it lays on the fact that a lot of things are socially semantic. In some nations it is for many reasons a taboo talking against their own country doesn’t matter what is really going on and in other cases the members of the opposition are more among the ones who answered the survey. So in the end you get sometimes confusing results or better results that in the end can harm especially the countries that stand on the top of the countries with minimal corruption. Actually these surveys are the people’s experiences with corruption and not prove that there is corruption and they are excluding corruption from the every day life.

Going through the results of the survey for the last years for example you find Iceland leading the list as the less corrupted country with 9.7 confident range from the Icelanders and Singapore in the 5th place with 9.5 confident range, a country for the ones who know and has visited is extremely selective on who can actually live in the tiny country – so in the end you get a selected elite from all kinds of the society living there – ruled dictatorial by a regime that gives no access at all to what really is going on inside the government. So here it is a country standing proudly in the lead of the less corrupted countries, a country that for decades has become known as the crossroad of smugglers and all kind of trafficking! It makes you wander why Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland feel proud to be on the same list. Actually that four Scandinavian countries – including Norway in the eighth position - are on the top of this list must be worth of studying for sociologists and analysts of social behaviour. And while Singapore holds the amazing fifth place, neighbour Malaysia with the known close, very close ties with Singapore holds the thirty-ninth place.

Of course all these surveys despite the fact that they started as a tool for the bettering for our countries have turned into political tools used often by populists to earn them power or help them get closer to power and we must never forget that power corrupts!

But apart from all that corruption is a virus with lethal outcome as the soviet example has already taught us and the latest example of Dubai can point strongly what the lack of transparency can lead us into and our target should not only to eliminate corruption in the state but eliminate corruption in all levels of our life including of bribing people all around us in many forms to do what they are oblige by definition to do.

P.S. it is worth to have a look how these surveys are contacted and download the results of the latest ones plus the questionnaire. http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/gcb


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