Staunton, January 16 – The pandemic has reduced the importance of corruption as a political issue for Tatars, who are now too tired from the pandemic to try to find ways of avoiding giving bribes although they say they currently are giving fewer bribes to doctors and teachers and more often to officials of local government bodies than a year ago.
According to a poll of some 4,000 people ordered by the Tatarstan Presidential Administration, residents of the republic are devoting less attention to the problem of bribery than they did before the pandemic. Before it, eight percent said bribes were a matter of major concern, but today only 5.9 percent do (business-gazeta.ru/article/495628).
Outranking bribery as a focus of public concern, the survey showed, were high prices for consumer goods (73.2 percent this year as against 58.4 percent last), low pay (37.9 percent as compared to 34 percent), and problems of employment (29.9 percent now, down from 47.7 percent in 2019).
While concerns about bribery have receded, roughly the same percentage – 8.6 percent as opposed to 8.5 percent a year ago – said they had found themselves in situations where bribes were demanded or expected. Moreover, 52 percent said they would give bribes if they were demanded rather than try to find away around doing so.
The biggest impact of the pandemic on this issue was that Tatars were more likely to be asked for and pay bribes to ease their domestic situations rather than as in the past to gain access to better medical care or educational opportunities for their children.
But on a positive note, the survey found that 44.6 percent of the sample said they would not pay bribes on principle, up from 27.2 percent before the pandemic; and 36.6 percent said they could solve problems without using corruption. At least part of this shift reflects better enforcement: 6.5 percent said they feared criminal sanctions, up from 3.3 percent a year ago.
Analysts suggested that a major reason bribes to teachers and medical personnel had fallen was that it is far harder for educators to solicit bribes in an online environment and far more difficult for doctors to do so when there is so much focus on the medical care system because of the coronavirus pandemic.