Bribery or Surcharge?

By Matthew Richardson

If you can’t get people to stop walking on grass, you might as well pave the path. That appears to be the mentality in Romania, where the suggestion has arisen that, by requiring rather than prohibiting bribes to doctors, legal magic converts this common illicit exchange of money from corruption into legitimate payment for services. Beyond the interesting governmental and philosophical questions presented by this idea, within the realm of sanctions, a thoughtful observer might raise two questions. First, whether this constitutes legitimization within the sanctions regimes of foreign actors such as the United States (FCPA) or multilateral development banks (World Bank, IADB, etc.). Second, how any system can distinguish between misconduct and fair dealing when an individual can discreetly pass a few bills to a physician and receive immediate care, while someone else watches the minutes go by helplessly in the waiting room.