Indian Decade

A Corruption Tipping Point?

India is regularly ranked one of the most corrupt countries in the world. But is it reaching a tipping point?

I’ve written several times about corruption in India, not least surrounding the Commonwealth Games. Sadly, India has grown used to major corruption scandals emerging from the country’s administration. As a result, year after year we come bottom in a whole range of transparency indices.

But now a study has put some specific numbers on just how much this ill – which continues unabated despite modernization and privatization – is costing us. Global Financial Integrity, a think tank, said around $462 billion has been siphoned off through corruption, bribery and tax evasion in India between 1948 and 2008. Strangely, the opening up of the economy accelerated the corrupt outflows – the growth rate of illicit flows doubled to 16.4 percent from 1991, compared with the 9.08 percent average growth between 1948 and 1990.

Few of us are surprised at this institutionalisation of systemic corruption. But over the past couple of weeks, several commentators and editorials like a recent column in the Mint newspaper have voiced the hope that the apparent surge in the number of mega scams, and all the resulting media scrutiny, might finally lead to some real changes. Anil Padmanabhan, writing in the Mint, says he believes the recent problems have brought us to the verge of a tipping point. We all hope he's right.