As frustrated as corporate India is about corruption, it will get nowhere unless it stops playing the victim and acknowledges its role in skewing the economic growth to enrich the rich further and impoverish the poor even more
BV Rao | November 8, 2012
Corporate India has raised its voice against corruption again, this time at the World Economic Forum (WEF) conference now on at Gurgaon. The shared wisdom at this high table of world economic dialogue was that corruption chokes growth.
Adi Godrej, chairman of Godrej Industries and head of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), reflected the mood of corporate India as reported in The Economic Times this morning. "Tackling corruption is key to GDP growth. If we reduce corruption by 50% GDP growth will go up by 1%."
The same paper quoted leading corporate lawyer Zia Mody as saying that the recent reforms zeal of the UPA government to bring in FDI in multi-brand retail would not amount to much in the face of large-scale corruption. "What's the point of opening up FDI in multi-brand retail if, at the state level, there's corruption and the policies cannot be implemented in a transparent way," ET quoted Mody as saying.
We can understand why Godrej and Mody's sentiments would have resonated well with the rest of corporate India. The big scams are getting bigger and even top political leaders and political families are looking rather small as it becomes clear that they will go to any lengths to enhance their riches and those of their family. It does seem like there is nothing a business or corporate house can do without greasing palms.
So it is not difficult to empathise with corporate India and feel its frustration that corruption is stopping our growth. But it is impossible to comprehend why corporate India thinks of itself as just the victim of corruption. Or how it closes it eyes to the fact that the thousands of crores of money lost to the exchequer are not going into the bank accounts of politicians but enriching their companies and themselves just as much or even more. Or how corporate India tends to forget that behind every corrupt politician there is a greedy moneybag.
It would have been nice to hear one corporate honcho asking their fellow-travellers to look within and talk about how a few of them are tarnishing the image of the corporations and why crooks within their ranks must be jailed, tried and convicted as quickly as Rajat Gupta was put away by the US law enforcement agencies. When comptroller and auditor general (CAG) Vinod Rai, their chief tormentor of the government for the last few years, was saying that the transparency laws must apply to private corporations too, I would have liked to hear that at least some of them supported his views rather than squirm uncomfortably in their seats (yes, that's just a guess).
More than anything else, I would have loved one, just one, of the honchos to talk about why the biggest of their big brothers, Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries should set the example by agreeing to allow a perfectly legitimate audit by the CAG of his KG D6 oil well because there are very valid doubts raised by a very honest minister (S Jaipal Reddy) on whether billions of public money have been put to good use.
As frustrated as corporate India is about corruption, it will get nowhere unless it stops playing the victim and acknowledges its role in skewing the economic growth to enrich the rich further and impoverish the poor even more.
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