Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Armenia: fighting corruption… without scapegoats?.. for real?..

I like that prime minister Tigran Sargsyan put ‘fighting corruption’ back to the agenda and headlines. Sacking people who are synonymous of corruption in Armenia is a right thing to do. However… merely changing people will not solve the problem. It is important, but not enough at all. If Alvina Zakaryan, head of Armenia’s notorious government agency issuing passports and visas (OVIR), got sacked due to widespread corruption in her agency, voiced by prime minister himself, why there are no legal proceedings into the case? Is it because she knows many secrets? Will we witness just another scapegoat victim here too, as usual?

Do not get me wrong. I support prime minister’s voiced agenda of fighting corruption in Armenia as “the number one problem” facing the country (there are other ‘number ones’ too, but this is one of the primary ones, for sure). However, unless we witness high rank corrupt officials brought to justice, instead of (or along with) random university lecturers or middle to low rank police officers – usual scapegoats, this will be a virtual fight with corruption, not the real one.


Ani said...

What's needed is some kind of score card that lists name of person, position, then whether the person was charged and what happened, and where that person is now. This is obviously a media job, it should be continuously available and updated, objectively. Nothing like seeing blanks that need to be filled in to spur some progress or the filling in of a blank to let people know that something has happened.

By the way, this is once again shadowing Russian policy, as Medevev has declared a war on corruption in Russia. Hopefully, something good will come out of it in both countries!

Regarding Alvina Zakaryan, hard for me to be neutral when she looks exactly like my Baba Yaga doll!

nazarian said...

Sacking people or shuffling them is not going to achieve anything unless there are systematic changes. When you have a loooong bureaucratic chain, you will always have people who will ask for a reward to speed up things, and there always will be people willing to pay for the convenience of faster and less inconvenient way of doing business.

What is mind boggling is that there perhaps is no need for 90% of the paperwork involved in the transactions between the state and an individual. Couple it with the incompetence universally present among the government employees and you have a big problem. The state then becomes a parasite sucking the life out the people instead of enabling the people to develop and prosper.

Bruce Tasker said...

Unzipped is very well informed of my 'Blowing the World Bank Whistle' action in Washington that has been going on for more than a year to fight corruption that has been increasing in Armenia since the turn of the century, including involvement of the WB and the IMF. Serzh Sargsyan and Tigran Sarkissian have had every opportunity to support this real effort to investigate well-documented corruption, exposed by Vahan Hovhanissian's Parliamentary Commission of 2004, and involving tens of millions of dollars.

But despite Sargsyan saying he would support the effort, he and Sarkissian have both demonstrated that their promises are ever empty.

This latest promise will be nothing more than the millions of promises that have gone before.

BTW, together with GAP, we are still pressing for a full investigation and report, and thanks to Unzipped and other well-intentioned bloggers for their support.

Anonymous said...

Success to you, Bruce.
God help you on the way to disclosing the truth about the nasty deeds of the big shots of this regime.

me said...

While I take no small pleasure in seeing Alvira go, I'm afraid this isn't going to change much.

For proof of this, all you need to do is be a masochist and watch H1 once in a while. Every other day, our newly appointed president strolls into a meeting with various leaders of our government and local administration and duly informs them that they need to start following the law.

So, in essence, the president telling the police to act within the law is presented as an amazing breakthrough that needs to be trumpeted to high heavens. A better indication of the Qocharyan years is hard to imagine, but the important thing is that everything is still being done by king's orders. The fact that his "orders" are being largely ignored notwithstanding, effectively, once the furor starts to calm down, there's no guarantee that Serzh won't then order for example the police to go back to whatever it is that they were doing.

As long as the police, the tax authorities, the OVIR and the various ministries (at last count 18, which as many as Russia) await the "president"'s word to decide to act within the framework of the law, we'll have what we have and nothing more.

Anonymous said...

I am less ambitious than the naysayers here. I see a step in the right direction and I applaud it.

I realize that for some, there is nothing the authorities can do right. That is ok. I think for many in Armenia, however, there is some quiet hope that there will be more law and order - something that has been in short supply for 17 years in post-Soviet Armenia. I for one welcome shake-ups, firings of corrupt officials, opening of the weekly government meetings to all media, attention to customs and tax systems, promotion of investment climate etc.

Sorry to sound positive, but I think it is all relative, and there is alot of work to do. Good actions, be they by government or by opposition folks, should be supported.