Corruption down, but country has some way to go, study finds

Corruption down, but country has some way to go, study finds

New Delhi: India is getting gradually less corrupt, finds an annual study based on perceptions of the business community across the world.

For the fourth successive year, the corruption perception index (CPI) released by Transparency International India, the Indian chapter of the Berlin-based not-for-profit organization committed to countering corruption in business transactions, shows an improvement in the country’s relative position as well as an individual integrity score based on a scale of 10.

In the case of India, the study draws on 10 independent surveys, based on interviews conducted with senior executives of leading companies, about bribes paid at various levels.

While zero indicates the highest level of corruption, 10 indicates no corruption whatsoever.

With an integrity score of 3.5, slightly higher than 3.3 last year, India remains ahead of its neighbours in South Asia, except Bhutan, and on a par with China, Brazil and Mexico. Pakistan, with a score of 2.4, falls way behind India, with a rank of 138.

India’s rank of 72, out of the 180 countries surveyed, is also an improvement over last year’s rank as the 70th least corrupt country, among 163 surveyed.

“This is nothing to be complacent about," cautioned R.H. Tahiliani, chairman of Transparency International India. “There is a direct correlation between corruption and poverty and between corruption and misgovernance. While India’s CPI has improved marginally since last year, it has a long way to go to reach the level of countries such as Denmark, Finland and New Zealand, which score over 9."

Interestingly, some African countries, including South Africa (5.1), Seychelles (4.5) and Namibia (4.5) have scored much higher than India.

Tahiliani said perception about India has been improving largely because of significant victories by the civil society in combating corruption, including the Supreme Court order in 2003 mandating declaration of assets by candidates contesting elections. Then came the Right To Information Act, he said, which empowered the citizens further.

Parth J. Shah, president of the New Delhi-based think tank, Centre for Civil Society, said there has been a perceptible drop in corruption in daily lives over the past few years. “There is an inverse relation between economic freedom and the degree of corruption. With deregulation in certain sectors, such as telecommunications, corruption is bound to go down. You don’t need to bribe a linesman of a public sector service provider any longer simply because there is competition from the private players."

Tahiliani said the highest level of corruption is seen in the government’s procurement, whether it be fertilizers or wheat or goods ordered by public sector undertakings. An official at the nodal food procurement agency, Food Corporation of India, said, “Not everything is in our hands. Once foodgrains are released from our depots, we are in no position to track the distribution."

Shah said even as economic freedom had increased, politicians had found other means to “maximize their take".

“Corruption may be going down at the lowest level, in telecommunications and railway bookings, etc., but even within telecommunications, for instance, look how the politicians are finding new ways to enhance their control in spectrum allocation," he said.

Said S.D. Sharma, working chairman emeritus of Transparency International India: “Political corruption is the mother of all corruptions."