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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Is Slovenia a corrupt country?

Transparency International published its corruption index for 2013. It shows the perceived level of corruption in the public service of 177 countries. According to their findings, Australia is ranked 9th sharing its position with Canada with 81 points out of 100; Slovenia is in 43rd place together with Lithuania with 57 points. All former Yugoslav republics are ranked well below Slovenia: Croatia in 57th position (48 points), Macedonia FYR and Montenegro share 67th position (44 points), and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia share 72th place (42 points).

In this system, 1st place (100 points out of 100) means really clean and and last place (1 point) means totally corrupt. The lower the number of points the more corrupt the country is.



The placing of Slovenia is not surprising. Most of us probably believe that Slovenia is fairly corrupt. While I personally don't know of any public servant receiving bribes for their service, I do know of high officials using taxpayers resources for their private needs. And I am sure everyone else has an interesting little story about Slovenian corruption. Some may not be more than mere gossip while others are true and can be supported by hard evidence.

It would be easy to dismiss Slovenian corruption by saying that it is no worse than elsewhere, that Slovenia is in reasonable company - ahead of Malta, South Korea, Hungary and just behind Spain, Cape Verde, Dominica - and that it is placed HIGHER than its former best friends (that should count for something, shouldn't it?). However, it is not as simple as that.

Corruption means rot, it means that somebody is benefiting at the expense of another. If I use public funds privately I am stealing.

If the employer is the government, people in Slovenia tend to think that they are just taking from 'Drzava'  - as if 'Drzava' is a giantess who makes her own money and dispenses it at will. Because she looks mean and nasty it is OK to steal from her. She steals from them too, doesn't she?

People in Slovenia will one day have to realise that 'Drzava' are them: they are the ones who earn money and give it to the state through taxes so that it can be used for public service. They give it to public servants on trust. When an official uses public money for his own needs he is abusing taxpayers' trust.

Long-term, unchecked corruption in public service is extremely damaging as it teaches new generations that this is the easiest way to get what you want. Every generation becomes even more versed in different types of corrupt behaviour. Such behaviour becomes a norm and widely accepted. It undermines justice and economic development and destroys public trust in leaders.

This year, Slovenia is ranked 43. Last year it was ranked 37, six places higher. How low can we go?

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