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Corruption now seen as a background issue, survey says

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, February 1
The results of surveys conducted as part of the Council of Europe project 'Support to the anti-corruption strategy of Georgia' (GEPAC), were presented at the State Chancellery on January 29. The surveys were conducted by GORBI (Georgian Opinion Research Business International-Gallup International) and asked questions on corruption and some other problematic issues.

The poll sample included adults residing in both rural and urban areas of Georgia, excluding the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the staff of military bases and the inmates of correctional institutes. The sample was designed based on information taken from the 2002 census. Actual fieldwork was conducted from 4th to 20th June 2009. A total of one thousand adult respondents were interviewed by forty of GORBI’s most experienced field interviewers who have conducted similar surveys. 1,800 people were polled in all, 1,000 ordinary citizens and 800 Government officials.

Despite the various reforms introduced in Georgia in recent years, especially since 2003, over half of Georgians continue to regard corruption as a major problem. Nevertheless, respondents identified the three most pressing problems facing Georgia today as unemployment, the high cost of healthcare and the high cost of living. This result corresponds with those of earlier national polls conducted by GORBI, and these demonstrate little departure from historic concerns expressed over the last 10 years. Most citizens believe that the greatest barriers to developing the country are the judiciary and court system. However, paying bribes to Government employees to receive better services and treatment is now considered to be a rare occurrence in Georgia. Moreover, it is widely held that informal payments will not bring the expected results.

The number of respondents who thought that corruption in Georgia is a serious problem, nearly one in two (48%) is only slightly higher than those who consider it not a serious problem (43%), but most did not consider this a pressing problem in their immediate lives, corruption being perceived as more of a background issue, despite this, more than half of respondents continued to describe corruption as either a “major” or a “very major” problem. Three out of every five people (60%) surveyed believe that corruption in Georgia has either been “reduced or significantly reduced” in comparison to 10 years ago, with only a very small percentage (2.7%) saying that they had observed a corrupt act by a public official in the past three years.

Nearly seven in ten (69.7%) respondents disagreed or completely disagreed with the statement that “Corruption is a natural occurrence and is part of our daily lives". Moreover, public confidence in the integrity of state institutions is on the increase, with the Georgian Church, Office of the Public Defender, Patrol Police and the Ministry of Energy regarded as the most honest institutions. A third of ordinary Georgians believe that Georgia lacks the political will or fortitude to combat corruption, although a slightly higher number of respondents believe that it is doing all that is possible.

Part of the presentation was dedicated to outlining the latest anticorruption strategy. Vakhtang Lezhava, Head of the Prime Minister's Advisory Group on Management and Economic Affairs, said that "The previous anticorruption strategy and action plan were adopted in 2005. Now we are working on a more refined strategy. It will be finished in spring, when we will start working on the action plan. A new anticorruption strategy is very much needed to modernise the public services and ensure their transparency,” Lezhava said.