An unexpected trend in Lithuania’s growing intolerance to corruption

Corruption, Vida Press

Most Lithuanians consider corruption widespread, even though only 7% of people have had direct contact with it. These are the main findings of the European Commission’s EU-wide Eurobarometer survey, Lietuvos rytas wirtes in its editorial.

According to this year’s survey, as many as 83% of Lithuanians consider corruption a threatening problem in Lithuania, but this does not indicate that corruption is spreading in the country. It is likely that this opinion primarily reflects a growing public intolerance of corruption.

Other indicators in the survey suggest this. Only 7% of Lithuanians say they have had direct contact with corruption, the same as last year, but this is a vast improvement compared to 2013, when as many as 25% admitted to having experienced corruption. It is now just above the EU average of 6%.

Only 4% of people reported having paid bribes in the medical institutions traditionally considered the most corrupt. This is down from 7% last year and 21% in 2013.

In Lithuania, tolerance for corruption is declining, which may significantly impact the prevalence of this phenomenon. The number of people who think there is nothing wrong with receiving a public service in return in one way or another has fallen from 46% to 40% over the year.

This is still above the EU average of 36%, but there has been a significant increase in intolerance towards corruption.

Until recently, many people thought they could benefit from a gift or even an envelope of money to get a service faster, of better quality, and bypass the regular queue of applicants.

Now, 72% of people do not accept any form of payment for a public service, compared to 66% last year and 44% in 2013.

However, the areas identified as the most corrupt remain unchanged, except for healthcare, where bribery has fallen significantly, according to the survey.

The assessment of politicians, political parties, public tenderers and officials issuing building permits as corrupt has even worsened over the decade.

Bribery in medical institutions has declined considerably, although it is still considered the most corrupt area.

However, this year, only 4% of the population said they had paid a bribe to a doctor, compared to 7% last year and 25% in 2013.

The answers on what prompted bribes in medical institutions seem somewhat contradictory. While 53% of those who did so claim that they had been given an understanding that they should pay back the doctors, only 17% said that the doctors themselves had asked for the reward.

These responses are very different from other EU countries. In the Community, an average of 29% of people who have paid back doctors in one way or another say that they were allowed to understand the desired reward in the medical institutions. In comparison, 27% say doctors asked for or expected a bribe.

Health authorities should probably look into why there is such a wide variation in people’s answers as to what prompted them to pay a bribe, why more than half of patients say they were told about it in medical institutions and only one in six claims to have received such signals from the doctors themselves.

People have a long tradition of believing they will get better treatment if they pay their doctors back, and they do not always see the validity of such cues.

The recent scandals that have rocked healthcare institutions have made doctors more cautious and more likely to mention remuneration not directly but only through intermediaries.

Most Lithuanians – 52% – know where to report corruption, ahead of the EU average and neighbouring countries. Most believe that informing the police and journalists will help prevent such a report from going unnoticed.

On the other hand, only 5% of people who say they have direct experience of corruption have reported it. This shows that there is still a deficient level of faith in justice in Lithuania, with very few cases resulting in criminal convictions, which would reveal systemic corruption, causing severe damage to the state and society.

83% of the population believes that corrupt ties link business and politics too closely and that political connections are the only way for business people to succeed.

Moreover, 66% of respondents see corruption as part of the business culture, while 69% admit it hinders competition.

Moreover, 34% are not confident that they would not be harmed if they reported corruption, as they believe that whistleblowers are not sufficiently protected.

Such data reflects the public’s deep distrust of state institutions and scepticism towards politicians and political parties.

For example, 78% of people need to be convinced that transparency of party funding is properly monitored, and 75% of respondents doubt that the fight against corruption is impartial and not conducted only for hidden interests.

Only 24% of people consider the government’s efforts to prevent corruption effective – 6% less than last year.

As the parties in power change, only the targets of criticism change, while people’s high level of distrust in the helmspersons of the state remains unchanged.
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