“Magarich” is the magic word

Garik Papyan, my son (c) http://www.ditord.com

Garik Papyan, my son (c) http://www.ditord.com

Armenia pays a one-time allowance of AMD 50 thousand ($136 U.S.) to parents of new born children. My wife went over to the Social Security office the other day and came back  – with 49 thousand. She had to pay the 1 thousand ($3 U.S.) as “magarich” or “tip” or money to speed things up.

The social security official kept back the 1 thousand dram note, knowing that the mother of a 7-months-old child wouldn’t stand arguing for it, while the child might be crying left with the father.

I understand, that compared to some of the largescale corruption taking place in Armenia, this petty little $3 “magarich” is nopthing.  But the fact, that things like this are taken so naturally is what’s killing me.  You almost expect to be asked for a little ‘tip’ when getting in contact with any type of a small beurocrat or government official and the question always is – should I start an argument and possibly delay getting my business done for months, or should I just press my teeth and go on.

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8 thoughts on ““Magarich” is the magic word

  1. Amen, brother… Anyone who’s ever studied corruption seriously knows and appreciates the corrosive power of petty “magharich”… There’s very little difference between a 1000 AMD or $1000 USD, if it’s given because either of the receiving party “expects” it, or the giving party is “obliged” (“ba amot chi?”): the two sides of the same coin.

  2. Your wife should have asked for a receipt – in case you win back that 1 thousand:) Of course I’m joking, what else is there to do? This “magarich” phenomenon was there from times of Breznev, so nothing new, that time it was box of chocolates. Mind you it was more expensive than now-days 1 thousands drams.

  3. Magharich and corruption in general are a part of the Armenian culture. You can’t really do anything to eradicate it – if you have a bureaucrat then you will have corruption. Even if you bring in token honest people, the system will quickly destroy them.

    The only solution I see is to eliminate these bureaucrats. The government in Armenia is bloated and 70% of the staff can be reduced without a noticeable drop in services. Then it will be easier to control the situation.

    • Nazarian, I agree to most of your points, but I wouldn’t go with the statement that the government is bloated – do you have any evidence to support that claim? Indeed, it often seems, that the problem is – there are very few people handling too many tasks and having too much responsibility/discreation.

      • Bloated does not only mean excessive labor. It is also excessive regulations and the resulting paperwork to justify the existence of these people.

        My observation about the government is the following:

        – you have a large number of people employed. Among those, the majority are employed because they knew someone and got in thanks to nepotism.

        – of these large number of people, a handful are capable of doing the job. The rest are there to drink coffee, gossip and basically be unavailable most of the times.

        – the work is a lot of paperwork that is unnecessary. Not only you have a duplication of the work within a department, you have the inter-department disconnect with a multitude of forms needed for each step of the process.

        • Let’s examine the case of your child’s bonus. Here is how a good system would work.

          Step 1. The child is born, the child gets a name and identity card at the hospital, and the parents’ address is entered into a system.

          Step 2. After the discharge from hospital, a batch is generated at the hospital and sent to the Social Security services.

          Step 3. The Social Security services transfers the bonus to the parents’ bank account, or a check is mailed (I think there are checks in Armenia, aren’t there?).

          A totally automated system that requires no action on parents behalf – they just sit back and collect the bonus. No need to go through a hassle of carrying a crying baby around the town, or finding someone to look after him/her.

  4. The bonus would be:
    1. No interaction with a person in the government so no opportunity for a ‘magharich’;

    2. one less FTE (full time equivalent) employee hence higher salaries for the existing employees (or, less likely, lower taxes).

    But then, again, inefficiencies are in the post-Soviet culture so change (the positive kind) happens very slowly if ever.

    I sometimes wonder what a bunch of Six Sigma black belts would do if they went around these government offices and improved the processes.

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