The omnipresent craft: Graft

The omnipresent craft: Graft

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Aam Admi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal addressing a crowd on Dec 23, 2013. When his new administration in Delhi opened its corruption reporting hotline, the telephone networks were jammed.

GLOBALISATION has been facing strong headwinds as a result of anti-immigrant and anti-free trade pressures.

Now, a third issue challenging the benefits of global connectedness is taking centre stage in many countries: corruption. Globalisation does not cause corruption.

But the opening up of a country to trade and investment by foreigners has created opportunities for bribery and malfeasance on a scale greater than at any other time in the past. Fortunately, the Internet and the global diffusion of media have also enabled citizens and organisations to shine a light on bribery and the darker side of the nexus between politics and business.

From Brazil and India to China, Thailand and Turkey, the fight against corruption has become uppermost in the minds of ordinary people. Politicians are under pressure from their citizens to end rampant corruption, which is hampering growth and widening the income gap.

Exhibit A for the rising tide of anti-corruption sentiment is the stunning success of the Aam Admi Party (AAP) in India. While the Indian Parliament recently created the Lokpal, a high-level anti-graft agency, India's notoriety on corruption remains unchanged.

The latest survey by anti-graft watchdog Transparency International places India at 94th place out of 177 countries. As many as 54 per cent of respondents in India admitted to having paid a bribe to officials.

After local elections in 2013, the AAP formed a government in Delhi. When the new administration opened its corruption reporting hotline, the telephone networks were jammed.

The petty corruption that annoys average citizens, however, pales into insignificance when compared with the alleged graft by India's ministers and civil servants. The central government controls the disposition of telecoms, natural resources and construction contracts, all of which have been turned into lucrative bribery opportunities running into billions of dollars.

In China, too, corruption gets top billing. Concerned that it could erode the regime's legitimacy, Chinese President Xi Jinping has launched an anti-corruption drive, punishing mostly mid-level officials and banning lavish wining and dining on official tabs.

But, to make the point that the party will not tolerate citizen activism, the leaders of a fledgling anti-corruption group, New Citizens Movement, are being tried and are likely to be imprisoned.

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