• 2009-03-25


The blame for the endemic corruption problem faced by the Baltics cannot be placed at the feet of dirty politicians. Nor can it be ascribed to a struggling economy, or the ever-present ghost of the Soviet legacy.
These things certainly play a role, but the story runs far deeper than that. The real root of the problem lies in the Baltic people themselves.
A series of reports recently has found that the general population of the Baltic states simply does not care if their leaders are corrupt.

Last week, TBT reported on a corruption report from Latvia that found the average person simply does not understand the wider consequences of corruption. People are happy with their politicians as long as they keep the streets clean and the unemployment rate relatively low. And it matters not if they are skimming a bit off the top for themselves.

A survey commissioned by a major Latvian NGO found that only 8 percent of voters thought good governance would be the deciding factor in where they cast their ballot.

This week it was Lithuania's turn. A survey commissioned by Transparency International found that there has been no progress in the fight against corruption for eight years. Things may even have gotten worse.
The study found that nearly half of the people in the country had given a bribe to help improve their immediate situation. It found that corruption, particularly in hospitals and among the police, was an everyday part of life. And when the general populace takes corruption so lightly, it is no wonder that politicians do too.

Case in point can be found in Arturas Zuokas, a member of the Liberal and Center Union. Despite the fact that Zuokas has a bribery conviction to his name, nobody seems to see a problem with his being appointed a member of Parliament's anti-corruption commission. Sadly, this example is just one of many that can be found in the Baltics.

Lithuanian politicians have yet to pass a law that adequately protects whistleblowers who try to clean up the country. There is no political will to push such a law through because there is no demand from the wider public for cleaner governance.

In the Baltics, the corrupt wolves don't even pretend to wear sheep's clothing 's the electorate simply goes about their lives and lets the wolves have their fun.
It is only natural that politicians will continue their corrupt ways if the electorate does not take them to task for it. If the same corrupt people still get elected into office year after year, there is no reason to believe that they will do a better job next time around.

And once corruption grows into the system, once every idealistic young up and comer realizes that dirty deals are the norm, it becomes near impossible to stem the tide of graft.
People simply do not seem to realize the true consequences of corruption. When politicians pocket a few million euros in bribes or taxpayer money, the nation loses more than just a few million euros.  It loses the ability to make fair decisions for the good of the state, and, perhaps most importantly, it loses some of its dignity.