Corruption on the rise

A growing number of Greeks are being asked to bribe public servants to take care of their everyday affairs, according to a poll conducted on behalf of Sunday’s Kathimerini, with tax officials at the top of the culprits’ list in data which suggests that the government’s fight against corruption is falling well short of its mark. According to the poll, conducted in November by research company VPRC, some 22 percent of those polled responded that either they, or a family member, have bribed a tax official in the last few years. About 21 percent replied that they have offered a backhander to hospital staff, with most people saying that this was necessary to get an operation done. In third place come town-planning officials, followed by employees at the Transport Ministry. The price of a «favor» normally costs up to 300 euros, according to the survey but 15 percent of some 6,000 respondents said they had to pay more than 3,000 euros. One of the worrying messages from the poll is that incidents of corruption have been growing steadily in the last four years. The news comes at a time when the conservative government has been hammering into voters that it is fighting corruption in the state. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has made the anti-corruption campaign the cornerstone of his government’s policy but the survey suggests that it has not reaped any rewards yet. «We are committed to the Greek public to limit the gray areas of corruption, to form rules and boost democracy in the country that gave birth to it,» Karamanlis told his party’s lawmakers on Saturday. Critics say that this occurs due to the blind eye senior government staff members are turning toward the issue, which has earned Greece one of the worst reputations in the world. According to data provided this year by Transparency International (TI), a group dedicated to tracking corruption worldwide, kickbacks are so common in Greece that the country is on par with other nations such as Ethiopia, Russia and Kenya. In countries such as Argentina, Bulgaria and Turkey, there is less corruption than in Greece where between up to 30 percent of Greeks resorted to bribery in the last 12 months, TI said.