Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Corruption and Growth…

A few days before I left, there was an article in the New York Times about corruption in India.

So, I decided to investigate.

Turns out, it’s an even bigger problem that the article let on

And, I concluded, it’s what’s holding India back.

One refrain I heard was that “innovation doesn’t happen in India.”

Whether that’s true or not, the perception is that innovation happens in the West and then, when it’s mature, it comes to India for support and maintenance.

Then, the dots were connected for me.

As much as we like to make fun of lawyers, etc., the rule of law, property rights, contracts, etc….without these, you can’t reward and encourage innovation.

I knew that, of course, but it was reinforced.

An educated Indian here with an idea has too many levels of bureaucracy, graft, greed, and corruption to navigate in order to make his/her dream come true.

Ok, maybe a slight exaggeration, but from what I was told, you have to “pay to play” a lot and, even if you do, you still remain exposed.

However, it seems like corruption is endemic. The sense of “justice” that pervades in much of the West doesn’t exist in the same form here.

One Indian told me that there’s a connection to the Hindu concept of reincarnation. “If you do something wrong in this life, your payback is in the next life.”

What’s more, it’s clear to everyone that your first obligation is to your family…you need to protect and take care of them so, who cares if you take a bribe along the way?

That being said, there’s increasing frustration with corruption and the term for anti-corruption is “Vigilance” which seems to be picking up steam (albeit slowly).

Apparently, the Nov. 26 Mumbai attacks infuriated people (not just b/c of the terrorism), but because some suppliers of bulletproof vests to the police had cut corners thus causing unnecessary deaths.

Every now and then, I suppose it’s important to be reminded of the things we take for granted.

In this case, respect for the law.

So, go hug a lawyer. Lucky for me, I live with one.

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