The scale of Indian corruption never ceases to amaze. Details from a case in the state of Karnataka provide a rare peek into one of India’s many cans of worms. The NYT reports:
A computer file from 2008 listed payoffs that Adani Enterprises [the largest company in the business empire of India’s sixth-wealthiest man] was suspected of making to government officials. The port director, for instance, was paid 50,000 rupees ($1,100) per ship that set sail from the port, the file said. A customs official got 100,000 rupees every three months and 0.50 rupee per ton of iron ore shipped, it said. Police inspectors received 14,000 rupees every month, and local politicians were paid “once in a while,” the file said.
Great powers have to do better than this; a failure to curb corruption could derail either China or India as the two potential superpowers race toward global power. So far, Indian democracy has done little to stop the spread of pervasive, enfeebling dishonesty among officials. “Reform” often makes matters worse, transferring yet more power into the hands of unpatriotic, unethical officials who extort money from the public.As India and China modernize, they become more complex; unless they develop stronger institutions and a deeper culture of personal integrity among government officials, corruption is going to exact a progressively heavier toll.Mead advice: watch India’s struggle against corruption for signs that the country is or isn’t making real progress. Success makes the country more plausible as a geopolitical and economic leader; failure postpone’s India’s moment in the sun.