Thursday, December 23, 2010

Corruption and 2G

According to Transparency International, it seems that perceived corruption in both India (3.3) and China (3.5) are too high, and about the same level. India, as a democracy, currently seems to have more elbow room than China to improve and is trying hard to do so.

IMO: What puzzles me is the UK's moderately good rating of 7.6. Other EU countries like Italy at 3.9 and Greece at 3.5 are pretty awful and one suspects that "perceived corruption" rather than "corruption" is what we have here. Certainly there is an approximation to fact at least in Western eyes, with Scandanavian countries with apparently lttle corruption and places like Afghanistan with a lot, and it must look bad for a country to "seem" to be corrupt to the big spending countries. So improvement on the list should generally, probably, be good. But there is undoubtedly a lot of "spin" with the list, and spin itself is often corrupt.

According to the Jakarta Globe, India's 2G scandal, involving the 2008 allocation of valuable telecommunications spectrum to favored firms at throwaway prices, already brought this year’s winter session of Parliament to a halt over unsuccessful opposition demands for a wide-ranging inquiry. The man at the center of the storm, A. Raja, the former telecommunications minister, was forced to resign pending an investigation. Raja claims innocence.

IMO: But see Raja's alleged land grab activities, which seem well attested.

Meanwhile, the publication by two news magazines last month of a series of secretly taped phone conversations between Nira Radia, a high-powered lobbyist for two of India’s richest men — Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries and Ratan Tata of the Tata Group — and influential journalists, politicians and industrialists has India agog. The recordings, part of an income-tax probe of Radia, reveal a country run by clubby elites whose allegiance to one another is apparently greater than to the general public they’re supposed to serve.

Though most speakers on the tapes are not accused of illegal activity — and virtually all claim that the conversations have been misinterpreted by the public and the press — taken collectively the tapes nonetheless create an overwhelming impression that the exercise of power in India is compromised by a culture of rampant cronyism.

The Globe also points out that India’s splintered polity is littered with caste-based or regional parties with little conception of the national interest. The former telecommunications minister, Raja, belongs to one such party, the DMK, an important Congress ally from the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

IMO: But even worse, the CPI(Marxist) who allegedly campaign for the opposite to corruption like that - claiming Marxist origins - have for many years been the most corrupt party in India at their power base in West Bengal.  However, Indian democracy is really likely to lead to much improvement at least in the longer term. And the Globe have a slightly jaundiced approach to these matters.

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