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The Worm In The Lotus

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.

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  • carvaka

    there seems to some discussion whether this is india’s “gilded age” .

  • Bruno Behrend

    We had better worry about our own level of corruption before we worry about India.

    As western civ. has thrown off so much wealth, the problem with corruption in our own land has become an epidemic.

    This is made worse by decades of cultural decline in terms of character. As more and more people partake in corruption, more and more people look to how they can get in on it rather than ending it.

    I would expand the definition WAY beyond mere indictable offenses. The entire public pension scheme at the state and local level ought to be defined as “corruption.”

    When elected officials are bought by the people whose benefits they are expanding, the entire system is corrupt. The same goes for bug business “rent-seeking,” which has reached a level easily called “corrupt.” (GE, Enron, High speed rail, GM bailout, etc.)

    I leave you with this poster to contemplate the direction we are heading.

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