Belgrade Media Center, September 14, 2012
On Friday, September 14, 2012, at a Media Centre conference in Belgrade, newest research results on public opinion on corruption in Serbia were presented. The research, in its fifth cycle, was conducted in June 2012 by the agency Media Gallup for the needs of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Speakers at the conference included Deputy Prime Minister of the Serbia Government in charge for the fight against corruption Aleksandar Vučić, Permanent Coordinator of the United Nations (UN) in Serbia, William Infante, President of the Board of Directors of the Agency for the Fight Against Corruption, Zoran Stoiljković, and the Director of the Medium Gallup agency Srbobran Branković.
Prime Minister’s promises that the fight against corruption will be relentless, that there will be no untouchables and that the appropriate institutions (especially the Prosecution) will be provided with space for undisturbed action as well as all necessary political support, were repeated. The UNDP representative spoke about the rooted understandings of corruption in Serbia, pointing out the need to further educate citizens. The representative of the Agency for the Fight Against Corruption spoke about how cynical the citizens have become on the topic of politicians and corruption. The Director of Medium Gallup presented the main findings of the fifth cycle of research, comparing them to previous results.
Nearly half of Serbian citizens estimate that the level of corruption in Serbia increased, whilst a third believes it remained the same. About 40% of citizens are worried that the level of corruption will only rise even more in the next year. Most of the citizens believe that the fight against corruption is the responsibility of the police (47%) and the Government (46%). More than two thirds of citizens, 71%, believed in June 2012 that the most efficient tool in the fight against corruption are high penalties for offenders, compared to 66% in November 2011.
In its earlier analysis of the problem of corruption in Serbia (e.g. http://ceas-serbia.org/root/index.php/publikacije/75-korupcija-u-srbiji-2012-godine) CEAS pointed out that an enlightened approach to the fight against corruption encompasses not only the active measures in its repression, but also the narrowing of space for its advent, through the retraction of the state from decision making, especially arbitrary decision making, on economic life, as well as other long term activities to repress the culture of corruption inherited from previous times and regimes. With regret, we concluded that a significant part of the political and other elites, even the most well-meaning amongst them, do not understand or do not accept that further meaningful steps in the fight against partocracy, in public enterprises for example, and related corruption, can only be made through privatisation of most firms and generally, significantly reducing the role of the state in the economy.
The notion of liberalisation is economic life is often, and not only in Serbia, seen as insignificant in the fight against corruption. In contrast, the relationship between economic interventionism, excessive regulation, not to mention state administration of enterprise on the one side, and systemic corruption on the other, has been proven both in theory and in practice.
In this view the research brings nothing new to the table. The relation of citizens towards an optimal size of the public sector from a fight against corruption point of view is not even analysed. Would privatisation of public enterprise, especially those where there is no natural monopoly but where the state, on the contrary, unfairly competes with the private sector, bring the problem of corruption in and around them to a minimum? Would a similar effect be achieved with ‘slicing regulations’ by abolishing needless regulation, state intervention and the presence and jurisdiction of the bureaucracy in numerous spheres of economic life? All of these questions are waiting, not just for answers but for them to be raised publicly in the first place.
For example, answering the question ‘To what extent would, in your opinion, the following measures be efficient in the fight against corruption?’, polled citizens were offered numerous and various answers – from the toughest punitive measures, strengthening corruption consciousness, strengthening control over administration, bettering of laws in the sense of coordination with international conventions, greater role of the public sector, and a raise in public servant salaries – but not the opportunity to express opinions on whether reducing public spending from the current level of nearly half of GDP to a more conceivable measure and/or the continuation of privatisation of public enterprise and/or the slicing of regulations in specific domains or similar measures of economic liberalisation, would be efficient in preventing or reducing the spread and scope or corruption.
Regardless of the mentioned shortages, in which this research is no exception, but only confirms general trend, and not just in Serbia, it is a significant contribution to public debate on the problem of corruption here, at the same time contributing to the control and repression of this social evil.