26 February 2013

Videos of the meteorite “landing” in Russia earlier this month and another showing Russian motorway incidents were screened worldwide on TV and contemporaneously on You Tube (with hundreds of thousands more viewers).

The backstory – in the news jargon of the decade – is speculation about why Russians should have readily available cameras; why do so many seem to have the dashcams that caught footage of the meteorite and the series of car smashes?

Corruption seems to be the one worded explanation. In a country where policing and the court system appear to be administered often at the behest of powerful interests and officers supplement official income by extortion, a record of events is some defence against misuse of power. Radio Free Europe explains the ubiquitous dashcams as protection against police seeking bribes through fabricated traffic infringements and others who seek to extort payments for choreographed “accidents”.

Despite chairing the G20 this year – and APEC last year , which included the Vladivostok Declaration Against Corruption – Russian public administration ranks in the bottom 26% of nations (133rd of 176rd) on the Transparency International 2012 corruption perceptions index. The bribe payers index indicates that 15% of Russians say they have paid bribes in the last 12 months.

The Russian government recognises corruption as one of the most serious problems facing the country, and steps to counter it include setting up a dedicated Commission to coordinate a national anti-corruption strategy. But then New Zealand also has made a commitment to publish a national anti corruption plan this year……