Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Ending Corruption - Is anybody serious?

There is so much talk these days on ending corruption, so much posturing. Every one, be it the government, political parties or individuals, appear to have their own agenda – which is definitely NOT trying to curb or even to arrest the huge corruption presently seen. For one thing, what we citizens come across is only petty corruption which is arguably only a miniscule of the amounts one is reading about these days. The level of corruption that is talked about is not seen by us common persons and we are really dependent on the media for their reporting and so our opinions are formed entirely on their reports. This therefore casts huge responsibility on the media.
The government has come up with two ideas to rein in corruption, which to my mind are ludicrous. The first is that the Government is amending the existing Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs) with different countries and entering into Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEA) with tax havens. But there is no talk at all about assessing the success of the existing agreements, the quantum of black money that came back or was reduced vis-a-vis these countries, which aspect of the agreements succeeded and which did not, and why not?  And without this analysis, merely signing further agreements does not indicate any sincerity in attacking the problem.
The second farce is the government’s announcement that it has commissioned an in-depth study to quantify unaccounted income and wealth stashed within and outside the country. The study to be completed in 16 months has been undertaken by the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) and National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM).  Media reports also say that the first study on unaccounted money was conducted by NIPFP way back in 1985 and that the ministry said that the estimates, which are not reliable, vary from USD 462 billion to USD 1.4 trillion. This appears a real charade - why add NIPFP to the present study if you do not trust their estimated data? Assessing the quantum of black money is essential – yes, but where do we see any announcement on concrete steps taken to stem the flow. What is planned in the interim 16 months? Especially since, as has been past experience, the timeline will only get stretched and the report ultimately buried. And since when did black money and corruption become synonyms?
Several political parties have also jumped vociferously into the fray but none of them have pointed out what they have done in the States where they are in the majority and have the responsibility for clean governance. Why can’t we have details of some tangible action taken by them and the successes achieved to curtail corruption? And as far as the yogis and swamis et al are concerned, the huge amounts of wealth and assets that have been accumulated by them, their organisations and their trusts are fast approaching the mind boggling figures reported by the media in the latest scams.
For how long will we ordinary citizens continue to be taken for a ride?