Thursday, 14 February 2008

The price of doing business here?

After a great weekend in the North of England, which was looking wonderful in uncharacteristally bright Spring (?) sunshine, I came back to flu and have been in bed asleep for most of the last two days. I don't know what they put in Russian Coldrex, but Damn! it is good.

While I have been asleep, a colleague forwarded me the table here, which appeared in Vedomosti on Monday. The article and table is about the current going rate for bribes people have to pay to do business here in Russia. The original article, in Russian, is here (and the table is more legible if you click on the link in the article).

But the point is: $250,000 for proposing a law (yeah, but a good $1-2 mill to get it passed mate); a 30-40% cut for commercial participation in one of the Priority National Projects; $20,000 retainer to TV news for criticism of targeted bureaucrats; etc. These are allegedly the going 'market rates' for bribery presently. They feel about right to me.

Although, in my experience (anecdotal, natch), TV news editorial-judgments are becomming a lot more expensive than that; and to get your man spotlighted positively on one of the main Russian current affairs programs? $150-200k I am told.

Although, oddly, this sort of thing has never crossed my path directly; from what I am hearing bribery rates have gone up for Russian businesses recently, as the current ruling elite are looking to... ahem...monetarize their experience, just in case political change will follow Medvedev into the Kremlin. As has been written well elsewhere, there may not be much of a democratic race on in Russia at the moment; but the clan wars amongst the Siloviki are as hard-fought as anything right now between Obama and Hilary.

This story about the market for bribery, did remind me of the depressing front-page lead in the Moscow Times yesterday, on the rise of 'raidering' in Russia. Now generally, 'raidering' is something I associate with Ukraine, where it is rampant. I had thought it was on the wane in Russia; and I think it is in the larger corporate sector; and not something I think will greatly affect western businesses. But it does, on the other hand, provide more ammunition for those who would say that Russia has become a state which exists by, for and of the modern-era Chekists. And, to the extent that anyone serious about doing business in Russia needs to have employed at least one seriously-well connected ex-KGB/FSB officer, I guess I reluctantly agreeing.

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