Four out of five Hungarian youth think corruption pervades their country

August 12, 2016

Corruption“Youth take corruption for a serious problem in the country and think it should not go unsanctioned.  However they believe that honest people who take a clear stance against corruption have less chance to succeed.” – József Péter Martin, executive director, Transparency International Hungary

Although some people may think otherwise, Hungarian youth will not look the other way and will not tolerate corruption in the country. This is the lesson to be learnt from a recent study by Transparency International Hungary (TI), Publicus Institute and Corvinus University jointly researched in July 2016.

More than 6 billion people live in countries with a serious corruption problem, and Hungary is no exception. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Hungary ranked 50th on a list of 168 countries from the least to the most corrupt. Denmark and Finland, where corruption is virtually unknown, top the list.  North Korea and Somalia are at the bottom.

Politics is most infected

As for young people in Hungary, they are well aware of the problems they have to face. Transparency’s research reveals that 80 young people out of 100 think that corruption is a serious problem in Hungary, and 77% of those surveyed consider political life the most infected. According to the survey, more than half (54 percent) of young people have personally experienced corruption: 39 percent in healthcare and 29 percent during police procedures.

Unfortunately, 71 percent of young people think that people who are willing to engage in acts of corruption have more chance to succeed in life compared to honest, decent people. Many of the surveyed therefore think that corruption is the key for success in Hungary. Young people consider politicians (members of government and of the parliament, mayors and municipal representatives) to be the most corrupt, with 84% referring to the shady real estate business of politicians as corruption.

But what exactly do young people regard as corruption?

Apart from the questionable enrichment of politicians, young people also regard crony capitalism as corruption: 76 percent think that it is a form of corruption when government contracts are awarded to family members and business friends of decision-makers. 61 percent of young people consider government-financed construction of stadiums and the money-drain of the Central Bank (Magyar Nemzeti Bank – MNB) through its Pallas Athéné foundations a form of corruption. The survey shows that the long-term memory of young people is in good shape, as nearly two-thirds of them still consider the controversial 2013 distribution of government tobacco retailing concessions an instance of corruption. In addition, three-quarters of those surveyed consider the sell-off of public lands to government party cronies and the widespread misappropriation of subsidies from the European Union to be a form of corruption.

Don’t tolerate it!

Although four-fifths of young people think that corruption pervades the entire country, an even larger percentage (84 percent) feel that this should not be tolerated. Two-thirds of people between the ages of 18 and 29 would be willing to report wrongdoing to the authorities. This is to be welcomed since four years ago only a quarter of the age group would have turned to the authorities with the suspicion of corruption, according to Transparency International. The majority of those who would not report corruption either fear that they would get in trouble for it or have no faith in the credible investigation of their report.

“Findings of our research illustrate that youth take corruption for a serious problem in the country and think it should not go unsanctioned,” said Transparency International’s József Péter Martin when presenting the survey at Budapest’s Sziget Festival on Friday.  “However they believe that honest people who take a clear stance against corruption have less chance to succeed.”

Contributions from abroad

TI’s research and campaign has been accomplished with contributions from the United States’ Embassy to Budapest, the French Embassy to Budapest and OTP Fund Management Ltd.

Colleen Bell, the United States’ ambassador to Budapest, and Iain Lindsay, head of the United Kingdom’s diplomatic mission in Hungary, also participated at TI’s event at the Sziget Festival.

“I believe that by confronting corruption in a systematic and rigorous way, and by doing the hard work of educating people about the importance of transparency and accountability, this culture of tolerating corruption can change,” stressed Ambassador Bell.

Anne-Marie Maskay, on behalf of the French Embassy to Budapest, underlined:

“Raising awareness among young people is a key element to fighting corruption, in Hungary and everywhere in the world.”

State-owned media is silent

More than half of the surveyed expect the media to inform the people about the risks of corruption. At the same time, frequent news of corruption triggers indifference in young people, and news about thefts of hundreds of millions or billions of forints is difficult to comprehend.

In a focus group with young people it was also stated that due to the excess amount of news on acts of misuse, it is impossible to follow who stole how much. Young people between the ages of 18 and 29 get information mainly from news sites on the internet, and they regard online newspapers and foreign news channels as trustworthy. Contrarily, they don’t trust state media, and find that it does not report on government corruption.

The whole study of Transparency International can be downloaded from this link.