Moody’s may not factor it into its economic calculations, but the price of bribing state officials is a big part of any accurate picture of Russia’s economy. Bribery is standard practice in Russia, in both large and small ways, and corruption so pervades the Russian system that one can’t really understand how the economy works without it. For every one of “Putin’s friends” who becomes a billionaire through connections to Gazprom or what have you, there are hundreds of smaller government officials with greasy palms.
By that standard, Russia’s economic status may be even more woeful than we’d thought. NBC News reports on an article in the Russian newspaper Izvestia:
The average bribe paid to officials in Russia has more than doubled to the equivalent of $3,500, a pro-government newspaper reported Friday.
Citing government figures, the average cost of greasing the wheels of the state went from 208,000 rubles to 109,000 rubles since this time last year, according to the Izvestia newspaper
However, because failing oil prices and Western sanctions have halved the value of the ruble against the dollar, the average bribe in the equivalent dollar amount has not changed since 2014.
The newspaper said that the bribe-takers generally prefer dollars and euros over their home currency.
The cost of the bribes have doubled in real terms because buying the same amount of dollars takes roughly twice as many rubles as it used to. NBC goes on:
Izvestia said the data was provided by the Russian Interior Ministry’s in-house data center. The department was not immediately available when contacted by NBC News.
The average bribe was calculated by looking at graft-related criminal cases but authorities admit those were just a drop in the ocean.
The sum total of graft and kickbacks in Russia was put at $300 billion in 2013, by the National Anti-Corruption Committee independent watchdog.
With the buying power of the ruble bottomed out due to the crash in oil prices and, to a lesser extent, sanctions, it seems the Russian black market economy in as much trouble as is the above-board one.