The Mercury, October 13, 1999
CONFERENCE HEARS FROM THE ODD ONE OUT
Russian visitor defends corruption
HE SPOKE as though he were carrying the weight of his corrupt country on his shoulders.
"I am from Russia," he said somewhat wearily, as if that might say It all for the delegates to the anti-corruption conference.
But self-confessed patriot Lev Timofeev, of the centre of research on illegal economic systems at the Russian State University for Humanitarians in Moscow, had come, he said, with a "queer duty* - to justify corruption in his motn' eriand.
"At a conference where all the speakers assault corruption, there should emerge a crank defending it ... at least for the sake of symmetry," he said.
By the beginning of the 1980s. he explained, little remained of the socialist sector... the entire chain was corrupt while, paradoxicalty, the black market maintained a more or less normal production process.
"It became the system of living blood circulation in the dead shell of the planned economy.
"If you asked how building materials or spare parts for tracton and cars had been procured, the answer would have been given in how many bottles of vodka had been drunk and how many free lunches and dinners had been consumed.
"The middle-man constantly darted around the country, looking for something, buying someone off and without him the nation's enterprises would have long ago ground to a hall
"Was this coemption? If it was, it was a kind of productive corruption."
But then he told the conference:
"At this point 1 quit to stand up for corruption."
He told of a survey of 1 800 "small, plain people" which highlighted how bureaucratic resolutions were bought and sold.
"Each of them has a price. As a young village teacher said 'some get things cheap and some pay all the whole of it'.
"Bureaucrats act openly and fearlessly for everyone to watch. It is well known how much this or tha official costs... and this knowledge has long ago stopped bothering the public opinion.
What to do? Mr Timofeev aid that he did not wish to "adise arrogantly", but suggested that foreign donors to Russia make any further funding conditional on people getting lawful property rights.
"I am absolutely sure that it will be the best input into our common struggle against corruption," Mr Timofeev said.