Friday, July 1, 2022

Negotiating the corruption

Temuka-based arable farmer Michael Tayler is a 2012 Nuffield scholar. He has recently returned from travels through Asia, Europe, and the US, during which time he documented his experiences in a series of emails. This is the second part of an email sent after a trip through the Ukraine. (Part 1 ran in Country-Wide December.)

Driving in the Ukraine is another challenge.

The roads are terrible. With no cat’s eyes or reflector posts, driving at night was pretty hairy to say the least. While driving, we twice experienced the corruption the Ukraine is famous for.

The first time I was driving along one of their major roads, the third car of our little convoy, when passing a random checkpoint I was waved over by the police for some bogus traffic offence.

They took me into a little office with three other policemen and started jabbering away in Russian. Realising I couldn’t understand a word he just said “trouble” in English and wrote down 150 euros. I had been forewarned so I said I didn’t have €150. So he crossed it out and wrote €100. I showed him my wallet and got out all the local currency I had, about NZ$25 equivalent.

The haggling went on for 15 minutes. He was going to accept that but as I put my driver’s licence away he saw some American currency tucked away in my wallet. “Green ones, green ones”, he said excitedly, so negotiations resumed and I had to pay another US$50, although I managed to get back some of the local currency.

Basically it was a game called theft: I knew it, he knew it, but the person with the badge and gun wins, end of story. We discussed it afterwards and wondered whether I should have just kept going, not stopped. Would they have chased after us?

Funnily enough three days later, I was driving and again was the third car in our line of VW Polos when another policeman waved me over. This time we decided we had paid enough “fines” so I didn't stop. Looking in my rear vision mirror and seeing the policeman hurrying to his car I quickly realised our strategy of doing a runner was flawed.

A crappy little police car eventually came screaming up behind me with lights flashing and a loudspeaker saying something in Russian which I assumed was pull over. Again he spoke no English, so communicating was a challenge. I did work out he wanted me to come back to his office but we kept telling him in sign language that we had to rush to the airport (small lie) and just started waving money around.

With some of the other guys hanging around the car he seemed a bit unsure of himself and we eventually settled on the equivalent of €34.

A better result.


Finished for the day … a typical local combine with plenty of hours left in it yet.

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