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the October 2001 issue of World Press Review
Baksheesh Mentality in Germany
Hans-Ludwig Zachert, Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung (conservative), Frankfurt, Germany, July 30, 2001.
Germany is sinking farther down the corruption list, says
Transparency International in Berlin. Its report states that Germany
has slipped down to 20th place in the ranking of 91 countries, after
falling from 14th to 17th last year. This steady downward trend reflects
irregularities in party financing, graft in government offices, corruption
proceedings against civil servants and top people in well-known public
institutions, shenanigans in the awarding of construction contracts,
dubious bank transactions related to contributions, and favors accepted
by top politicians.
We Germans have been accustomed in the past, not without considerable
smugness and even arrogance, to look down on the baksheesh mentality
in other countries. However, the large number of press accounts about
bribery cases, and the cases filed by the police and the public prosecutors,
prove that there are no grounds for such complacency.
Corruption cases of the most varied kinds can be found all over Germany.
For cash, you can get market stalls (Düsseldorf) and visas for
Chinese citizens (Berlin). Whoever antes up the most gets a concession
for a hotel or a casino. You can buy drivers licenses (Mainz
and Frankfurt am Main) and residence permits (Hamburg, Saarbrücken)
that involve fake marriages and falsified entries in the city registry.
For a bribe you can get contracts for car towing and insider information.
Other areas especially susceptible to corruption include the award
of commissions paid out of public funds and procurement contracts,
such as purchases of security equipment for police forces (Düsseldorf
and Hanover), and deliveries to government cafeterias.
You pay for construction permits and contracts to paint the
striping on roads and highways (Hanover, Dresden) as well as
for municipal garbage-removal contracts (Frankfurt am Main)
and contracts to provide housing for asylum seekers. The construction
industry in many German cities has been rife with corruption
for years. Graft payments are factored into the price structure.
Such practices cant help distorting the operation of a
free market, the economic system, and business ethics. An honest
businessman cant survive wherever graft is part of the