Six Ways to Reduce Corruption in Greece

May 19, 2015 11:15 AM

Drawing on my experience in the government of Bulgaria, I offered six ways Greece can reduce corruption in a speech at the Emergency Economic Summit for Greece today in Athens. These guidelines are universal and apply to any country.

  1. Reduce the redistributive role of the state. Currently the Greek government redistributes 47 percent of GDP; Bulgaria redistributes 34 percent.
  2. Establish an electronic register of all public procurement tenders, with their winners and the conditions of the winning bid. Much of the corruption at the national and municipal level occurs when favored companies receive contracts. We tried and failed to do this in Bulgaria, amid heavy lobbying from interest groups.
  3. Keep public records of the daily meetings calendars of senior government officials and political figures. A recent media investigation in Bulgaria has revealed that in the midst of a banking crisis last year, both the banking regulator and the public-companies regulator had multiple meetings with the private banker responsible for the crisis.
  4. Introduce annual public audits of municipalities and state-owned companies. Much of the corruption in countries like Bulgaria and Greece happens through state-owned companies or at the municipal level. Another recent media investigation of longtime city mayors in Bulgaria has uncovered that they own assets significantly in excess of their cumulative income.
  5. Introduce a mandatory cooling-off period for senior government officials and politicians before they can work in the private sector or regulatory bodies. The independence of regulatory bodies like the central bank is badly compromised if a politician is selected to run it. This happened in Bulgaria twice in the last 20 years, resulting in two banking crises.
  6. Strengthen income and asset disclosure by politicians during and after their government tenure.Disclosure should cover their families as well. Establish extrajudicial institutions to analyze these disclosures and investigate irregularities. In 2014, for example, such an institution in Bulgaria revealed that a deputy president in parliament had accumulated assets around 15 times his disclosed income. His son's bank accounts were used to transfer some of these assets abroad.

Greece could implement the majority of these measures quickly and at little cost.

Simeon Djankov, visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, was minister of finance and deputy prime minister of Bulgaria from 2009 to 2013.