A Lesson in Corruption
It’s not a lesson I’ve had to experience, yet (that I know of). However, it’s bound to happen pretty soon. Bribery here is a way of life. From what I can tell, it’s generally because people here don’t get paid enough for certain jobs. (Example: post office, teachers)
So, instead of asking for a resume when interviewing for a job, you might get asked how much you’ll pay. Or, the post office worker will ask for a little extra to send your package. Or you might have to pay someone for a promotion at your teaching job. A brimming meritocracy.
The standard response when Azerbaijani officials are asked about this is: “There is corruption in America, too” or “Corruption is everywhere.” Something to that effect.
But that doesn’t answer the question.
For a good look at what’s going on here, check out the Transparency International report:
Hikmet planned to convert the front room of his small
apartment into a flower shop. After the fall of Communism in
Azerbaijan, almost every other ground-floor apartment on
his Baku street had been converted into small shops by their
residents. Considering it as a means to supplement his
veteran’s pension, which was barely enough to cover his food
and heating costs, Hikmet approached the municipality to
apply for planning permission. Shortly after, he was contacted
informally by an individual who offered to ‘ensure his
planning application was accepted’ in return for US $10,000,
a figure that far outstripped his annual pension. Hikmet
refused, and shortly afterwards his application to open the
flower shop was deferred.
The report also puts Azerbaijan up as one of the most likely populations to pay a bribe, as upwards of 46% of Azeris report having done so. This puts them up there with Cameroon and Ghana and Sierra Leone.
There’s probably a bit more going on here than just straight up bribery, such as the story above. Instead, it seems like a lot of the bribes are small things that everyone assumes for the fact that many people are not getting paid enough for their regular jobs. And the majority of bribes aren’t huge. For many folks, its not seen as a problem, but just the cost of doing business, like tipping a waiter.