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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Study: Bribery Soars to $319 Billion Per Year

Bribery is on the rise, with businesses and individuals forking out $319 billion per year to bureaucrats, police, educators and doctors, according to a study released Wednesday.

However, people are gradually growing more reluctant to pay bribes, it said.

Bureaucrats and other state-paid employees are putting increasing pressure on people to pay bribes, despite well-publicized efforts by the Kremlin to crack down on corruption, according to the two-year study by Indem, an anti-corruption think tank, and Romir Monitoring.

"The stable growth of corruption is provided by the extra pressure that the authorities are putting on ordinary people to make them pay bribes," Indem president Georgy Satarov said at a news conference.

"However, ordinary people have appeared to become more reluctant to pay bureaucrats, finding other ways of solving their problems, and this a very positive effect," he said.

One piece of good news is that bribes to traffic police have dropped to $183 million per year, half of the $368.4 million they were four years earlier, when Indem and Romir last carried out a similar study.

The latest study found that businesses were paying about $316 billion per year in bribes, a nearly 900 percent increase from four years ago. Indem interviewed 1,000 businesspeople and 3,000 ordinary people for latest study.

Ordinary people are paying another $3.01 billion every year in payments and bribes for free services such as education and health care, as well as to traffic police, military recruitment officials and doctors who can get draftees out of compulsory military service, the study found.

About 75 percent of bribes paid by businesses goes to low-ranking local officials, either in municipal administrations or the local branches of federal agencies such as tax offices. Of the rest, 20 percent goes into the pockets of regional authorities, and 5 percent goes to federal officials.

The largest share of bribes, about 30 percent, is collected by fire and health inspectors, who regularly check buildings to make sure they meet federal standards. Licensing authorities come in a close second, followed by fiscal officials such as tax inspectors.

Of bribes to bureaucrats, Satarov said the executive branch of government collected a share of 87 percent — a sign that the economy remains tightly regulated.

The average businessman pays out $135,800 in bribes every year, an amount that is 13 times higher than four years ago, the report said.

As for other bribes, most go to institutes of higher education, mainly for admission into colleges and universities. Those bribes total $583 million per year.

Health care costs patients $401.1 million in bribes per year, a drop of 33 percent from four years ago. That decline, however, comes at a cost, Satarov said. "More than 20 million Russians do not use free medical care because they cannot afford to pay the bribes that come along with it," he said.

Payments to doctors and military recruitment officials to get out of the Army have skyrocketed from $13 million four years ago to $353 million per year now.

Satarov said the continuing unrest in Chechnya combined with the recent high-profile suicides and hazing of servicemen has prompted parents to go to great lengths to get their sons out of the military.

Bribes to courts for just or favorable decisions total $209 million per year, a decrease of 23 percent. One-quarter of respondents said they believed corrupt officials initiated all bribes.

Satarov said the government did not appear to be ready to tackle the issue in earnest before the next presidential election, in 2008. He noted that President Vladimir Putin established a presidential council to crack down on corruption in 2003 and that the only thing the council had done in the last 18 months was to appoint then-Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov as its head. Putin fired Kasyanov in February 2004, and prosecutors are now investigating Kasyanov on possible corruption charges.

Yelena Panfilova of Transparency International, a Berlin-based anti-corruption watchdog, said the Indem study showed how corruption was evolving under Putin. "I consider this survey a litmus test of the efficiency of the very same authorities who in 2001 declared fighting corruption a policy priority," Panfilova said.

Transparency International currently ranks Russia as the 90th-least corrupt country out of 145 nations included in its annual corruption index.