Image Source: Peretz Partensky
October 14, 2016
REGION: Central Asia

In the article, Do the Poor Pay Twice? Impact of Corruption in the Kyrgyz Republic, a team from the World Bank Group presents the results of a Poverty and Social Impact Analysis. The project was designed to examine the impact of petty corruption on Kyrgyz households by determining the extent of petty corruption in the country. It also constructs a profile of the affected households, with a focus on the economic well-being of the poorest citizens in the country.

The form of corruption that Kyrgyz citizens experience most directly is petty corruption, or small acts of rent-seeking by civil servants. Influencing the implementation of existing laws through methods such as bribery can also fall under this category. This corruption represents a burden or an implicit tax on consumption, and a 2015 poll showed that 95 percent of citizens in the Kyrgyz Republic identified corruption as a big problem for their country. Police, education, health services, and the judiciary are consistently listed among the most corrupt institutions. Survey data suggests that this problem is worsening, with 20 percent of respondent in the 2013 Global Corruption Barometer stating that corruption has “increased a lot” in the past two years and 73 percent of people in a 2015 poll answering that the government was not doing enough to fight corruption.

The team of authors proposed the hypothesis that the poorest citizens are more vulnerable to rent-extraction, meaning they are more likely to be asked to pay bribes and are more likely to pay when asked, as compared to the wealthy. To test this hypothesis, they created a mixed-methods study comprised of a quantitative survey and focus groups to collect qualitative data.

The results of the survey support the team’s hypothesis and reveal important differences in how distinct income groups are vulnerable to and affected by corruption in the Kyrgyz Republic. According to the survey, 45 percent of individuals in the lowest income quintile states that government agents were more likely to request payment, as opposed to 31 percent in the highest quintile. Higher income individuals also had a lower cost per transaction and advance notice of necessary payments. Not only were poorer individuals more likely to be asked to pay, but the poor are more likely to pay the requested amount than other income groups. Additionally, the survey showed that the individuals in the lowest and highest income brackets were the most likely to pay bribes, which is explained by the idea that the poorest individuals pay because they have to, while the richest individuals pay because they can.

The focus groups presented three primary causes of corruption in the Kygryz Republic. The first was low salaries and economic circumstances of public servants, which often motivates these individuals to take bribes. The second is cultural norms, which accounts for the citizens’ contributions to the problem. The final reason is the limited voice and lack of legal awareness of citizens. The groups also generated several suggestions for preventing corruption: change cultural norms and foster demand for good governance, increase outreach efforts and media coverage on corruption’s negative effects, inform citizens on their laws and rights, increase independence of anti-corruption agencies, and introduce anonymous reporting systems.

The authors hope their findings provide scholars with additional information for developing anti-corruption strategies to mitigate corruption’s impact on the most economically vulnerable portion of the country’s population.

NOTE: This summary is produced by the Rule of Law Collaborative, not by the original author(s).

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