European Debt Crisis Greek Corruption Booming, Says Transparency International

Corruption is widely regarded as one of the triggers of the Greek debt crisis threatening the euro common currency. A new study by Transparency International suggests that corruption is part of everyday life in Greece, and claims private households paid more than 780 million euros in bribes in 2009.

Corruption is endemic in Greece, an international watchdog says.

Corruption is endemic in Greece, an international watchdog says.

The Greeks paid an average of €1,355 ($1,830) in bribes last year for public services such as speeding up the issue of driver's licenses and construction permits, getting admitted to public hospitals or manipulating tax returns, according to a new study by Transparency International, the Berlin-based global corruption watchdog.

In 2008, average bribes were even higher, at €1,374, the study said, according to a report in the German daily Die Welt on Tuesday.

Bribes paid for private sector services such as lawyers, doctors or banks were even higher, rising to €1,671 on average in 2009 from €1,575 in 2008, the study said. It is based on a survey by polling institute Public Issue among 6,122 Greek adults, of whom 13.4 percent stated that they had been asked to pay bribes.

According to Die Welt, Transparency International calculated that Greek households paid a total of €787 million in bribes in 2009 -- €462 million to civil servants and €325 million in the private sector. The total sum is up 23 percent from 2007, when TI estimated that bribes totalling €639 million were paid.

Government, Corporate Corruption Not Measured

The figures show only a small part of the corruption in Greece because many people did not admit to paying bribes, the study said. "We only measure so-called small-scale corruption, meaning bribes paid by private individuals to civil servants and in the private sector," the head of Transparency International Greece, Konstantin Bakouris, told Die Welt.

He added that TI did not record the corruption going on at the government and corporate level, even though it was widespread.

The Greek budget deficit in 2009 amounted to 12.7 percent of GDP, more than four times the EU limit. Market worries that the Greek government might default on its debt have pushed up the cost of Greek borrowing and triggered a 10 percent depreciation of the euro against the dollar since the end of 2009. There are fears that a Greek default could lead to a breakup of the 11-year-old monetary union.

The Greek government has pledged to hike taxes and slash public spending to bring the deficit back down. German accusations of corruption, false public accounting and extravagance have led to a war of words between Greece and Germany in recent weeks.

Politicians in Germany are reluctant to rescue Greece, partly because such a move would be deeply unpopular after Germans have undergone reforms in recent years to keep their budget deficit under control. Bild, the mass circulation German daily, reflected the public mood on Tuesday with a banner headline on its front page asking: "Are The Greeks Breaking the Euro?"

cro -- with wire reports


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