April 16, 2004
Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin, re-elected last month on an anti-graft agenda, has given state officials a hefty pay rise aimed at ensuring them a decent income without having to resort to bribery.
In an April 10 decree disclosed by the Vedomosti daily on Friday, Putin increased the average state salary of about 35,000 workers in his reshuffled federal government to the equivalent of $500 a month from just over $100.
Higher wages are meant to discourage public servants from taking bribes in a country ranked 86 on a public probity index – alongside Mozambique – out of 133 countries studied by independent graft watchdog Transparency International in 2003.
Corruption – widespread among officials of all levels – costs Russia around $30 billion a year, or about 10 percent of gross domestic product, according to some estimates.
“This is definitely a very good sign,” said analyst Yevgeny Gavrilenkov of Troika Dialog. “This is just the beginning, Putin’s first step, or at least one of his first steps.”
But one analyst said the move’s impact could be limited as it only affects the top 10 percent of 350,000 civil servants in the government.
“International experience shows there is no statistical correlation between civil servants’ pay and the level of corruption,” Georgy Satarov, head of think tank Indem, told Ekho Moskvy radio. “Russia’s history has shown that.”
Putin, who seeks to eliminate poverty and double the size of the economy within a decade, raised his own pay to about $4,300 a month – equivalent to that of the Spanish prime minister, Vedomosti said. Putin’s current pay is not clear.
Ministers’ pay would rise fivefold to about $3,000 a month, while their deputies will get about $1,600.
“This important reform is a necessary, though not, of course, sufficient, component of the fight against corruption,” commented analyst Christopher Granville of UFG brokerage.