Sunday, 29 June 2008

Money Money Money

India ranks 74th globally in the latest global corruption polls and is deemed less corrupt than Pakistan and more corrupt than China. After the report has been published, what we (or rather our journalists) would like to focus on is not how India’s position has deteriorated but how India is still better than Pakistan.

Let us forget that comparisons should not be made and absolute progress is what should be considered. If we do want to compare ourselves, then why compare ourselves with a nation that is economically and politically still quite a few years behind us. Why can’t we compare ourselves with a Japan or a Singapore or even a Bhutan which is apparently the least corrupt country in Asia? Why do we take solace in the fact that someone is behind us? Why can we not look at adopting the best practices of those doing better than us?

My own opinion is that we should not compare ourselves with anybody but see the actual progress we have made. In this case, in fact, there is no progress - we have only moved two steps behind. For a country that talks about morality and spirituality at every given opportunity this digression is quite ironic.

I believe that each one of us Indians has a role to play in aiding and promoting corruption. Starting with procurement of a personal driving license, to getting government approvals for corporate projects to getting asset managers to invest money in a company, there are people who have resorted to under the table transactions. Then to top it all, we the educated, do not even want to vote in elections stating that each candidate is corrupt and that one less vote will not make a difference. When we do not want to take responsibility for the simplest democratic obligation that we have, how can we hold anyone accountable to carry on their duties responsibly?

A very amusing incident happened with me a few weeks ago. I was meeting a senior professional visiting London. In his view I should be moving back to India as the opportunities there are far more. Could be a valid point. However, his pitch to me was I could make more money because in India I could “manage” my taxes more “efficiently”. In his words “You should give this a very serious thought because money is the only thing that talks and gets you what you want in life!” This is an interesting view indeed. I am not saying that money is not important. I do like my holidays and perfumes and the ability to afford some luxuries. However, I will not accept as true that money gets one what they want in life. Money is essential but not the most vital source of achieving ambitions.

If this attitude and belief of money being supreme is held by the well educated, well traveled and prosperous Indians, I am not sure anyone can blame the less privileged to resort to the available means to “make the most of what little they earn”. With this vicious cycle in place there is very little that can be done to improve India’s position in the global corruption ranking. Is it just economic growth that we Indians want to talk about? Is that the only benchmark to judge if India is shining or not? Or is it the only parameter that we are willing to understand?

PS: Interesting article on this topic sent to me by Mr. Cold Caller (how about trying this is India?)
BEIJING (Reuters) - Anti-graft authorities in a southern Chinese city are questioning mistresses of suspected corrupt officials and finding the information is paying off prettily, state media said on Thursday.

Mistresses and "second wives" are common among government officials and businessmen in China and are often blamed for driving officials to seek money through bribes or other abuses of power.
"At least 80 percent of corrupt officials exposed in Dongguan had mistresses who gave us important information that we did not possess," Zhou Yuefeng, deputy director of the industrial city's anti-graft bureau told the China Daily. He declined to give details.

Besides having mistresses, Zhou said receiving bribes in the form of share dividends was also common among corrupt officials in Dongguan. "Our focus this year will be on the taxation and medical departments." he said. "However, that doesn't mean we won't be looking at corruption in other areas."

A report by China's top prosecutor's office last year said that of 16 provincial-level officials punished for serious graft in the previous five years, most were involved in "trading power for sex," along with gambling, money-laundering and shady land sales to developers.

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