WASHINGTON – “Incredible India” is the captivating slogan created a few years ago with the goal of attracting tourists to this mysterious land of wonder, exotic nature and adventure. Yes, India is about elephants and tigers, ancient religions, delicious food, tea and spices. But it is also the land of high-tech wonders in Bangalore and Chennai, coupled with luxury hotels and modern urban sophistication.
Well, talk about hyperbole.
While some of those claims have a factual basis, the fact is that India is mostly a poor, disorganized, fundamentally dysfunctional and –most of all– hopelessly corrupt country.
How corrupt? Terminally so, according to its citizens.
Here is some data cited by The Economist (A bad boom, March 15, 2014):
“In a recent poll 96% of Indians said corruption was holding their country back, and 92% thought it has got worse in the past five years.”
Got that? 96% of the people in India cite corruption as a major issue, and most of those polled believe that it is getting worse.
Near bottom of the class
In the international Corruption Perception Index compiled annually by Transparency International, India is not at the very bottom of the list, along with countries like Afghanistan or Sudan. But at number 94 (in a descending order from 1 to 177), it is doing poorly. In comparison, other emerging countries, while hardly shining examples of probity, are doing a bit better. Malaysia is number 53, Brazil is at 72, China is number 80.
India held back by its corrupt elites
Indian anti-corruption politicians are getting some votes; but we are really far –indeed very far– from an inflection point.
No country captive of corrupt politicians and business people can go very far, no matter how smart and how well-educated some of its people are.