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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

We're number one!

Poland has made it to the top of another EU list!

That's right! Poland is #1, top dog, best in the biz, head of the class, when it comes to ... corruption! Nobody in the EU can beat us, though Slovakia and Greece sure tried their darnedest.

For the second year in a row, Finland is lowest on the corruption chart. According to Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, Finns can't even manage a lowly traffic-ticket bribe, much less the under-the-table kickbacks at which Polish politicians have grown so adroit. Even candidate countries Croatia and Turkey are less corrupt than Poland. It seems nobody in the EU can beat Poland when it comes to corruption.

However, the news isn't all good. Poland ranks only 70th out of 159 countries. There's more work to be done. Look out Chad!


Blogger ~JS said...

what was poland's rank last year? is it getting better or worse? and in some ways, poland's ranking could help turkey advance its case for eu clubship --

perhaps the latest ranking came at a great time for lech k. -- with the anti-corruption platform...

check out the image used to depict the 'new turkey' http://eubookshop.com/1/76 -- it harkens back to the economist's cover about poland some years ago -- almost the exact same imagery (from darkness into the light)...

10/19/2005 01:15:00 AM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Here's a link to CPI 2004.

You can see that Poland is in place #67 - three places higher than this year.

And still the lowest in the EU. And still below Croatia and even Ghana.

Turkey, on the other hand, leapfrogged Poland.

10/19/2005 08:05:00 PM  

Blogger beatroot said...

Yeah, you got to this one before I did.

Did you know that I used to get caught for not having a ticket on public transport all the time? Every tram or bus I went on had these guys with leather jackets on looking very obviously like they were ticket inspectors. These`days I am a reformed character. But all the times I got caught I never, ever paid the fool fine. I think the full fine is about 80 zloty. But I always got away with 30, 40 maybe.

I big confession - and I have been to see a priest about the matter - but it just shows you the state of the day to day nature of this little problem.

10/19/2005 10:21:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

It's 82 zlots. I know because I just perpetrated last week.


Guess that means I'm part of the problem.

Hey, gimme a break - the kiosks that recharge the karta miejska are never open outside of working hours.

10/19/2005 11:35:00 PM  

Blogger Michael Farris said...

Time to play devil's advocate. A very quick look at the link (literally a minute or less). Indicates this is about _perceptions_ and seems to be correlated between a number of different international polls.

Let's remember:

Polish people are not, on the whole, bright eyed optimists, the national motto is "things are bad, and going to get worse" (it only narrowly beat out "I just _knew_ this would happen!" and "I don't know and I don't care.")

The Polish media's favorite mantra is "Poland - the worst country in Europe!" (tomorrow, the world ...) (Wprost and tvn Fakty are the most enthusiastic purveyors).

A lack of stories about corruption in the media or a lack of concern among the population is no indication that it's not happening. I bet the Belarussian press has very few stories of official corruption. (I keep telling skeptical friends that having corruption scandals in the news is actually a good thing, but that's a hard sell).

Yeah things could be better in terms of public integrity, but it could be worse and I actually think it's mostly getting better. I've never ever paid a bribe in well over 10 years of residence here, but I've avoided having a car (the nexus of public and private Polish corruption).

10/20/2005 08:10:00 AM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Are you telling me that corruption in Poland is just a media conspiracy?

Is this not something you experience at the very least on a monthly basis? - 'cause I'm pretty sure I do.

How else can one measure corruption than by perception? It's not exactly as if records of these things are kept.

A lack of stories about corruption in the media or a lack of concern among the population is no indication that it's not happening. I bet the Belarussian press has very few stories of official corruption.

And yet, Belarus comes in far behind Poland in the survey. Maybe they didn't just take media reports into account?

I actually think it's mostly getting better

I hope you're right - though TI disagrees with you.

I've never ever paid a bribe in well over 10 years of residence here

Corruption comes in lots of non-monetary forms as well.

With a name like michael farris, I assume you're a non-native. You've never maybe given an employee at the labor office or immigration office a box of chocolates?

It sure makes getting the necessary documents a lot easier.

And don't forget the big ones too - there are lots of privatization going on, companies are willing to line Ministers' pockets to get their hands on profitable state companies.

Have you been following the privatization of Polmos Bialystock this year? CEDC, the favorite, initially loses the tender to Sobieski. But Sobieski's offer is almost immediately rejected, and they are given less than a week to correct the offer. Usually companies are given a month under such circumstances.

Sobieski doesn't make the deadline, are immediately cast aside, and CEDC is chosen next-best. CEDC's offer is nearly immediately accepted, and Sobieski is left high and dry.

Now, that could all be coincidence - each tender is different. But it seems to me there's something fishy there. In any case, the irregularity with which such processes are conducted is disturbing, and leaves plenty of room open for corruption. I've no doubt there are plenty willing to take advantage.

Sure, Poles are pessimistic. But I'm not convinced the results of this survey are as far from reality as we'd like to believe.

10/20/2005 02:09:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

My sources tell me that:

“It is a warning for Polish politics,” Former director of Transparency International in Poland, Julia Pitera, says. “Although, I do not think the situation is ultimately grave yet. [Poland’s] position is worse than in 2004, but let us also note that the downward movement is slowing down. In 1999 Poland lost 1.3 points and now 0.1 only, so it is a considerable difference. Maybe Poles’ moods are getting better because of the changes in the government people see, or maybe they get a feeling corruption is hunted down with some greater effort. Whatever the cause, we need to do everything to put a stop to this movement fast since it might be an excellent argument against Poland for other EU member states on budget-related meetings.”

10/20/2005 03:43:00 PM  

Blogger Federalist X said...

gus: what is the deal with polish troops and iraq? where are we heading with this?

10/20/2005 09:48:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Most likely, Polish troops will end up staying in Iraq past January, when they are scheduled to leave - if the US is willing to put up enough dough.

Polish public support for keeping troops in Iraq is abysmally low. Fortunately for the Bush administration, Iraq is not at the top of the political agenda here. First and foremost is lowering Poland's gargantuan 17.5% unemployment rate, followed by stamping out corruption, finding a way to fund Poland's bankrupt health system (and bringing it up to Western levels), strengthening Poland's role in an eastward expanding EU, stopping the spiral of worsening relations with Russia and figuring out how to deal with events in Ukraine and Belarus - US relations and the Iraq question fall somewhere behind these.

That leaves plenty of wiggle room for the two conservative contenders for the Presidency (election Sunday!) both of whom don't want to anger the public, but who also don't want to risk chilled relations with such a powerful ally. Kaczyński and Tusk have both left open the possibility of keeping Poland's troops in Iraq past January, but both have said they would demand reciprocation from the US - this is an equal partnership, after all.

Poles' greatest wish is to be entered into the Visa Waiver Program. Americans can come here and stay longer (as far as I know) than any other foreigner - 6 months - on a simple tourist visa. When a Pole wants to get a visa to go to the States, often to visit a close relative, he must travel to Warsaw and wait in line at the embassy, only to be faced with steely-eyed bureaucrats who demand to see proof of income, family, or anything that would deter them from emigrating to the States to steal American jobs. This of course, is only if they manage to scrounge up the $100 it costs just to apply. For a pensioner who wants to visit his American grandkids, that's a tall order. The money isn't refunded if he's rejected.

Bush has done nothing to make Poles feel like the valued friends he said they were during last year's campaign. The best he could do was place a customs official at the gate in Warsaw, rather than in Chicago or New York, to act as the final filter, rejecting undesirables in their home country rather than sending them on a flight back to Poland after going through the visa rigamarole and 9-hour flight, as had been the case until this year.

I doubt either of the candidates for President hold any illusions that Poland will be entered into the VWP anytime soon (though the bill has come up in Congress several years in a row now) - But expect the issue to be used as a bargaining chip.

However, at the beginning of the year, Bush promised Poland some $100 million in military modernization funds, which so far hasn't materialized. My guess is that if Bush coughs up that dough before the end of January, whoever is President will be able to paint it as a concession, and then cave on Iraq.

Kaczyński, though he's been talking tough about "something in return", would probably be the one to demand less, as he's the more pro-American of the two. Tusk seems to have nothing against the US, but is more EU-oriented in his politics, and could therefore drive a harder bargain.

Who wins the election on Sunday will have plenty of implications as to your question, but in the end, I think Poles realize it's in their interest to play a sort of "Britain of the East" in the EU - strongly supporting US military policy, while at the same time maintaining good relations with EU allies.

10/20/2005 11:39:00 PM  

Blogger Federalist X said...

WOW. i guess i asked a good question... thanks for your insights. i'm still trying to digest them.

let me ask a another q... know anything about the financial solvency of Elektrownia Turow?

10/20/2005 11:41:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

The typical, gus-esque nine-paragraph answer to a simple question. Enjoy.

Anyway, now you've got the background.

10/20/2005 11:51:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

I don't know anything about Elektrownia Turów. I'll see what I can dig up.

10/21/2005 12:16:00 AM  

Blogger Federalist X said...

thanks! sorry, i posted before i saw your reply... let me know what you find.

10/21/2005 12:18:00 AM  

Blogger Michael Farris said...

gustav, you bring up some good points, rather than answer them here, I decided to start a whole series over at my own much unloved (especially by me) blog.

10/21/2005 02:22:00 PM  

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