The sound of the one handed clap


" Enron and WorldCom officers' theft of shareholders' assets created a political firestorm.An anti-corporate populism had been lurking under the surface of American politics at least since the age of the Robber Barons of the latter part of the nineteenth century."Alan Greenspan:The Age of Turbulence -Page 430

The "C " word is often carefully avoided in bhadralok debates on development. Yet,corruption is a serious issue in many developing countries and is a serious impediment to progress.

I have been intrigued ,however, at how some sub-continental people cry hoarse about corruption and lack of governance in their own countries but are unable to develop a balanced weltanschauung. Corruption is not a monopoly of a particular country.Every country has a fair share of crooks. Historically,the scale of frauds has been more dramatic in countries with greater GDPs-------- perhaps because there was more to steal!

It is no surprise,therefore,that Robert Maxwell was not a Pakistani , Enron did not happen in India and the Worldcom CEO was not from Bangladesh. When corruption happens, there is always a giver and there is a corresponding taker. Rabindranath Tagore had famously said," You should hate equally those who commit wrong and those who acquiesce in it".

Yet in survey after survey we hear the thunderous sound of a one handed clap. In the indices on opacity and transparency, the "cleanest"countries are those which are traditional storehouses of ill gotten wealth.Jeffery Archer's short story CLEAN SWEEP IGNATIUS is a hilarious case in point. It is a story where irony,wit and satire come together. A Nigerian Minister of Finance wants to cut out the heart of corruption and flies to Switzerland to get the names of the citizens in his country who have Swiss bank accounts. However, his tests satisfy him that the Swiss will never break the omerta even with a gun held on their heads.He then promptly deposits his money in the Swiss bank .The bank had passed his version of Agnipariksha. Nigeria is rightly criticized in the story but the role of the other country is a laughing matter.

The giver is OK but the taker is doomed-this notion smacks of double standards and hypocrisy to me.If we are to root out corruption we must strike at both hands that clap - those of the giver and that of the taker.

No one publishes league tables of countries which bribe the most and leverage corruption most successfully.But that is not my point.

There are really no rogue nations or corrupt countries.Tarring whole nations with a broad, black brush is unfair.There are rogue corporations, corrupt politicians and dishonest bureaucrats who should be named and shamed.Remember N.Vittal -the CVC Chairman? How he exposed the underbelly of neta-babu nexus in our country in his website? Now that was courage and innovation at their best. But the honest should not be burdened with their sins.India is emerging as a powerhouse because most of its citizens are honest,talented and hardworking-the dishonest and corrupt are in a minority.

I am not condoning corruption in India.We must vigorously carry on the crusade because we want to make our country cleaner for ourselves-just as crusaders in other countries will fight their own battles. A former Prime Minister had said that India will make true progress when the politicians learn to say NO and civil servants learn to say YES. But shaming our nation recklessly in complete disregard of corruption as a global, cross-border phenomenon is unacceptable.

Set out below is another of those surveys designed to sell forensic work.

No comments, I rest my case.

38% global firms asked to pay bribes in India: Study

16 Oct 2007, 1729 hrs IST


NEW DELHI: Despite India becoming a new destination for global investors, 38 per cent of over 5,400 companies' representatives surveyed by the global consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers said they were asked to pay bribes to get licences, orders over the past two years.

Among the seven major emerging economies of the world, India is ahead of Turkey, Mexico and China, where 28, 28 and 21 per cent of firms in that order reported experience with bribery, according to the PwC 2007 Global Economic Crime Survey released here on Tuesday.

"The Indian companies and government should be concerned about the perception of global firms regarding corrupt environment in India as it would affect the flow of foreign investment and cost of raising funds by India Inc," the firm's Advisory Leader Ashwani Puri said while releasing the survey.

Russia, Indonesia and Brazil were, however, ahead of India in terms of corporate corruption, where about half of the surveyed firms reported they had been asked to pay bribes.

Of those firms which had to contend with bribery in India, 66 per cent said they lost the opportunity to their competitors because of this factor.

The survey also noted that one-third of the Indian companies surveyed have been victims of economic frauds like asset misappropriation, bribery, accounting frauds and infringement of intellectual property rights in the past two years.