Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Istanbul: I Paid a Bribe or, The Girl From Milan

Well, no, I didn't.

But while in Istanbul, I ran into an Italian girl from Milan. Our conversation reminded me of this website, I Paid A Bribe, which I first read about in the New York Times some months back.

Which reminded me of the economic situation in Greece, not unconnected with corruption there, which there is no political will to rectify. And makes me think of Phil in the Blank's post here about Mali.

Which contrasts with the story of Georgia in 2003.

So according to the Milanese girl, average Italian wages per month are roughly 1580 euros (confirmed here), while the average monthly earnings of the Italian lawmakers are more than $20,000 USD. Yup, per month.

The girl from Milan also said there were 665 lawmakers (though this article reports about 1000). This is for a population of 60 million. In contrast, the U.S. has 535 legislators for its population of 310 million. 

On top of this, Italy still requires its citizens to go hither and thither - physically - to get this or that stamped or fee paid or otherwise handled by government employees to get the simplest tasks done, such as license renewals or tax paying. Compare this to Georgia's current online system for many functions, operating not only from the desire for efficiency but in the belief that the fewer humans who touch an item, the fewer chances there are for corruption.

The Milanese girl told me about her two trips to the U.S. - one to New York and one, some years ago, on a family RV trip to some of America's national parks in the west.

She was so surprised at the differences between New York City and Milan. The rush, rush, rush! Work, work, work! The rudeness! The abruptness! The difficulty in meeting people.

Yes, she said, Milan could learn many lessons from the New Yorkers who were so kind and helpful to her when she was a tourist there. She can't wait to go back some day.

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