As I was leaving Moscow on a trip last month, the taxi driver was listening to a morning music and talk show on Retro FM, a popular radio station. One of the hosts began a rant against politicians and offered an interesting suggestion. She proposed depriving all Russian public officials of their salaries, so they would live on the lucrative bribes and kickbacks that most of them take. She argued correctly that given their under the table perks, Russian bureaucrats could live comfortably sans salary. Everywhere I went and on every media outlet (state and independent), the air was filled with talk of corruption.
President Vladimir Putin appears to be increasingly serious about rooting out at least some of the corruption rampant in both Russia’s state and society. His recent steps move in the right direction when it comes to high level corruption: they include giving all state officials just three months to repatriate their property holdings in foreign countries; strengthening reporting requirements regarding officials’ property, income and expenditures; and putting the presidential administration and a presidential commission run by high-powered allies such as Presidential Administration head Sergei Ivanov, in charge of checking officials’ properties, incomes and expenditure declarations.