Thursday 16 September 2010

Sao chuhe khake billi haaj ko chali

I was quite liking this discussion (everyone’s corrupt, not just us) till the Nigerian investigator pointed out that China and India were now the new corruptors of Africa, even as governments in developed countries enforce anti-corruption drives. And the whites just started off.

Well, well, well… Anyone asking how much white money is invested in these Chinese and Indian companies, and in these evil economies? And where does the fruits of our evil eventually go?

China’s Head of Press & Public Affairs in the UK writes in today’s FT: “In 2009, foreign-funded enterprises in China accounted for 55.9 per cent of the country’s total exports, contributing almost two-thirds of China’s trade surplus… Take “Barbie dolls” as an example. A Chinese-made Barbie doll sells for $ 10 in the US, out of which the Chinese manufacturer gets only 35 cents.”

(The diplomat does not say whether the Americans are making nearly 2760% profits on dolls, or explain why they may not be doing so, but that’s another matter.) 

It reminded me of a wedding in a very rich family. The bridegroom was, most probably, a graduate from a western business school, and understood that as long as your books were ok, white people will willingly look the other way while doing deals with you. But he needed black money for his wedding expenses. Of course, in India there is no distinction between company and family money.

So he hit upon a bright idea: He made his suppliers do the shopping, and asked them to bill him. (I don’t remember how he adjusted the tax. Most probably he expected the suppliers to grin and bear it.) And you had ad agencies ordering a ton of flowers and chemical companies ordering jewels.

Look ma, my hands are clean! What rubbish.


Arya Chatterjee said...

The deal is that corruption is everywhere. The other thing is whether it is an integral part of life or not. Lets take my example - I have stayed in India AND in USA. How many times have I, personally, encountered corruption in India and how many times in USA? How about you? Have you encountered corruption in France? I have seen corruption many times (way more) in India than in US. That, I think, is the crux. No one denies that people are corrupt - otherwise there would be no need for laws, no Al Capone, no Enron etc. etc. The question is - can you live a life without encountering corruption say once every year. There will be dishonest cops - but how many? What percent? That is the measure. How many judges are dishonest? 10%, 1%, 30%? When the west says that India and China are being dishonest, they are also saying that their own politicians are being dishonest. They are putting them on trial, they are putting them out of office. We don't. An affair ruined the NY governor. An affair will go unnoticed in Indian politics. That's all they are saying - not that they are any better - that we are worse. And its true.

Nabanita & Pabitra said...

You use slave labour. I think you are a bad guy. But I do business with you because you have the lowest prices and the best quality. Does that mean that, in effect, I am using slave labour? My argument is that it does. And that makes me as much a sinner as you. Similarly, I see corruption as transferable.

Second, I see corruption as cumulative. The big question for me is how much corruption does a society have as a whole. Think of Belgian Congo. Belgium, at the time when Leopold owned Congo, had probably far fewer bribe-takers than, say, Greece did. Yet, I would argue that the Belgian economy was more corrupt than the Greek one, though only a few Belgians' hands were 'dipped in blood'.

Not for a moment am I suggesting that Indians shouldn't worry about corruption. Or even that India's corruption stems from the West. I am however suggesting that the way that we think about corruption is simplistic and, hence, useless.