A DELAYED-ACTION ENEMA

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The slow battle against crime and corruption

Our leaders deserve a Nobel Prize for their ability to see nothing with their eyes wide open. Judge for yourselves. For example, was the government really unaware until recently that Russia has tens of thousands of casinos with direct links to organized crime?


Our leaders deserve a Nobel Prize for their ability to see nothing with their eyes wide open. Judge for yourselves. For example, was the government really unaware until recently that Russia has tens of thousands of casinos with direct links to organized crime? Were the Economic Development Ministry and the Interior Ministry really unaware that all outdoor produce markets in Russia are controlled by ethnic groups, with police and municipal authorities running protection rackets?

A kick from the Kremlin

Why is a kick from President Putin required every single time in order for crime-fighters to see the light? Why did the Tri Kita (Three Whales) case resurface only after Putin’s direct intervention? And was the government completely unaware of housing construction pyramids with the fine-sounding title of “Social Initiative”? Didn’t the government know that the incomes of housing speculators in Russia exceed drug trade profits?

Why did the authorities start lamenting so pathetically about “certain flaws” in the banking system only after the assassination of Andrei Kozlov, senior deputy chairman of the Central Bank? After all, bankers themselves admit openly that many banks are nothing more than payment offices for particular companies or money-laundering centers where illicit billions are converted into cash and set abroad.

What are we waiting for?

And what has come of it? Instead of a sweeping purge of the banking sector, we’re being shown five bad banks and another ten or so on the waiting list. The message to the banking sector is that it’s all right to keep on stealing, as long as they do it in a neat and tidy way.

The government and the parliament don’t seem to take into consideration that uncontrolled billions not only encourage corruption and inflate property prices, but also pose a direct threat to the security of the state and its citizens.

When criminal structures handle sums of money that exceed the budgets of the Armed Forces, the Interior Ministry, and the judicial system, there’s no way of knowing which politicians or parties they might choose to “invest” in, in order to protect their interests. It’s no secret that a number of business structures essentially maintain their own security and enforcement organizations, with their own intelligence and counter-intelligence services, law firms, lobby groups, and sometimes even hitmen. Was YUKOS an exceptional case?

Some analysts are already warning of the possibility that attempts may be made to artificially destabilize the situation in Russia during the transition period of 2007-08. Under the circumstances, the abovementioned structures could pose a serious threat to the authorities. The provocative murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya seems to have been a small rehearsal.

Some ministers lecture us almost every day from some idealistic textbook on how to live right. But in reality, citizens see different images and hear different sounds. The collapse of crumbling apartment buildings, the crashes of ageing passenger jets, the cries of cheated home-buyers, the grumbling of business owners who have to work for years to get a small business registered.

Why does it happen this way? Every time state officials announce that they want to follow the path of the public good, why do they always walk into another mess? What a fuss they made about the dacha amnesty! But it resulted in registration procedures for dacha properties becoming even more complicated. How many angry words they spoke about the pharmaceuticals mafia! But elderly citizens are still spending their precious few coins on low-quality fake medications.

Given that the federal budget for 2007 increases spending on the bureaucracy by 50%, we can expect even more blockages in the state administration system. And how many Putins will it take to make this bureaucratic biomass move? To be honest, the state’s guts are jammed with so much bureaucratic dross that even the president’s enema is no longer effective. Look at how they seemed to launch a “decisive battle” against casinos. They announced it far and wide: we’ll relocate gaming venues outside city limits – exile them to Siberia – drive them out to the Russian Far East! And what actually happened? A few days passed, and it turned out that nothing so drastic would be done. A few casinos would be closed, but not all, and not until 2009, anyway – that is, after the presidential election. By then the new president might forget all about the issue, or the bureaucracy might have another attack of constipation when it comes to implenting the decision.

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