According to the head of Transparency International‘s office in Greece, corruption is one of the main reasons why the nation is having a economic crisis.The organization estimates the cost if day-to-day corruption in Greece to be between 717 and 857 million euro per year.
“It’s not the only reason, but it’s a very important one.”
With Greece feeling the pressure from member states, the EU commission and the IMF to get a grip on its public spending, a transparency watchdog has estimated that the cost of bribes paid out by Greek citizens for public and private services is at least €800 million a year.
“Corruption is one of the main reasons why we have this economic crisis in Greece. It’s not the only one, but it’s a very important one,” head of Transparency International’s office in Greece, Aris Syngros, said during a hearing in the European Parliament last week.
Mr. Syngros presented the results of a survey carried out in the second half of 2009 which puts the cost of day-to-day corruption between €717 million and €857 million, an increase by some €40 million compared to results published a year before.
The calculation is based on telephone interviews with a sample of 6,122 individuals, carried out between July and December 2009.
The survey shows that the public sector in Greece is the most prone to corruption, with 9.3 percent of households reported to be asked to pay bribes in order to speed up administrative processes, get fair treatment in hospitals or avoid a penalty for traffic offenses.
The average bribe paid in 2009 for public services is €1,355.
But private companies and services also ask for bribes, as 5.3 percent of the people who participated in the survey admitted to have paid an average €1,671 to the private sector.
The study does not include high level corruption cases or big tax evasion schemes, which would put the figures much higher, Mr Syngros stressed.
“Corruption is not something we can’t see or touch. It’s real money, drained away from the real economy. Everybody speaks about recovery, growth, jobs, but without fighting corruption, this won’t work,” he says, urging the European Commission to put pressure on the Greek government to implement a far-reaching anti-corruption strategy.
“So far, the EU was like a spectator in a football match. We need a more active EU, that goes down on the field and is part of developing solutions.”
Back in Athens, Prime Minister George Papandreou acknowledged that “funds are being wasted this very minute into a black hole of mismanagement, corruption and waste.”
The EU executive is now looking at ways to extend monitoring of anti-corruption efforts in all member states, the EUobserver writes, as government and private corruption scandals ranging from defense contracts in Portugal to companies such as Siemens and Volkswagen continue to pop up.
Transparency International reports a worsening of the corruption perception in most EU countries.
“It’s a question of credibility for the EU: if we present ourselves at international level as upholding a certain standard, we have to do more at home as well. We are now working on a mechanism of periodical reporting on anti-corruption efforts within the EU,” a commission official says.
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