By ANDRE FRANCISCO
The U.S. Department of Commerce announced a new training opportunity for young U.S business men and women to learn valuable management skills. The training program is a two-week, all-expense paid trip to Russia.
The International Trade Administration (ITA) is running the program. In 1998 the ITA created the Good Governance Program to promote a “level playing field for U.S. companies in emerging markets” by "promoting transparency through business ethics and anti-corruption."
With a program that promotes anti-corruption, it seems strange that the ITA is sending U.S. business men and women for a “management training exchange program” to “gain practical experience” by working in a country that is consistently listed as one of the most corrupt.
Russia received a score of 2.1 on the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index from Transparency International, giving them a rank of 154 out of 178 countries. Russia received the same score as Tajikistan and Cambodia and a lower score than Yemen, Iran, and Haiti. The United States received a score of 7.1 and a rank of 22.
In addition, the 2008 Bribe Payers Index from Transparency International listed Russia dead last of the 22 countries in the index. The report went on to say:
About half of the respondents reported that companies from Russia often bribe high-level politicians and political parties and engage in bribery of low-level public officials, while somewhat fewer considered it common practice for Russian companies to use personal and familiar relationships to win public contracts.
Twice as many survey respondents reported the prevalence of high-level bribes in Russia than in any other country in the index. Just what kind of bribes are we talking about?
“The average bribe paid in Russia to a government or corporate official rose to 293,000 rubles ($10,573),” according to a 2011 Bloomberg article. That article also noted that Russians paid 164 billion rubles ($5.7 billion) in 2010 for small, every-day bribes.
Additionally, “In PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2009 Global Economic Crime Survey, Russia was in last place with 71 percent of respondents having reported experiencing economic crime, of which bribery and corruption were a major component,” according to the Heritage Foundation.
President Dmitry Medvedev has been making an effort to curb corruption, but even he has characterized the progress as “extremely modest.”
Andre Francisco is a POGO communications associate.
Image via Flickr user adam79.