World Bank, Civil society and a Guilty government
K. Ashok Rao
President, National Confederation of Officers’ Associations (NCOA)
It is an interesting coincidence that while in Washington Mr. Robert Zoellickan, evangelist for free trade and a member of the neoconservative vanguard, was launching an International Corruption Hunters Alliance (ICHA) to “draw strength, learn from one another and create their global alliance” in India the media owned by the beneficiaries of neo liberalism was launching a “civil society” crusade against corruption.
World Bank President’s concern was that “stealing is bad enough, ripping off the poor is disgusting” the civil society’s concern was the lack of an ombudsman who would reign in corruption with a magic wand. Neither of them were concerned that corruption is not only the misdemeanour of individual, but also the product of policies that encourage and ensure gross inequities.
If the head of Medical Council of India and the All India Council of Technical Education, that regulate medical and technical education (including management studies) are in Jail in the company of the head of teacher’s education comparing notes on who could make more money. Is it because this bunch of officials, compared to their predecessors, were real venal men wrongly chosen or because of the exponential commodification of education advocated by the World Bank.
Why is it that there has been an exponential growth of corruption in every sector since the time of the introduction of the new economic paradigm based on the conditionalities of the Structural Adjustment Loan following the signing of the Instruments of surrender in 1991 by Shri Man Mohan Singh the then Finance Minister. If in 2 G spectrum scam all the powers that be – Ministers, Bureaucrats, Businessmen,
Media personalities, Lobbyists are under trial; it is statistically impossible that similar scams are not prevalent in other sectors of the economy. It is just that they have not been unearthed as yet. It is like an unfortunate woman from the red light district who got pregnant.
Since 1991 as a result of the enabling conditions created by neoliberalism scams, that even by international standards are spectacular, have been launched. In one such scam, national public asset – air waves (2 G spectrum) were sold. The Comptroller &
Auditor General quantified the opportunity loss caused by a ‘first come first served’ policy compounded with the manipulation of the queue. There is a conspiracy of silence between the media, the corporate world and the powers that be, that this scam was the
end product of a process of cannibalisation of the State owned telecom companies BSNL and MTNL. This group is now arguing for the distress sale of the asset rich corporations – BSNL and MTNL.
Is privatisation, a mechanism of transferring public assets into private assets, itself an act of corruption, or does it becomes an act of corruption if besides corporates, by breaching some procedures, even an individual has pecuniary share in the proceeds. Nobel Laureate and former Chief Economic Adviser of the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz
asserted that privatization in the Third World was nothing but ‘briberization‘ In the context of Russia he said “There was too much emphasis on macroeconomic stabilisation at the expense of institution-building. Privatisation was pushed too far too fast, and,
without the right regulatory framework, was bound to fail. The result was a country riddled with cronyism and corruption.”
For the World Bank and the “Civil Society” and the media, privatisation is policy. If public assets are transferred to private hands and private monopolies replace public monopolies, that is policy leading to economic growth. Corruption arises if individuals
dip their hands in the till. In other word, their concern is transaction costs and not what Stiglitz called ‘briberization‘.
Mr.Raghuram G. Rajan, (Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago, former Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund and head of the committee on financial sector reforms in India), pointed out “that corruption in India’s political establishment used to be about the sale of permits during the License-Permit Raj. Reforms have created new sources of rents for the establishment. Scarce national resources like forests, coal, and minerals can be allocated. Land can be expropriated from those who do not have connections or formal title, converted to industrial use and allocated. Public land can
always be disposed off to favored parties. Contracts can be assigned to chosen friends despite a sham of public bidding. In all this, the public exchequer is defrauded, while the rents are shared between the politician and the corrupt businessman.” It is worth noting that Russia has 87 billionaires for the 1.3 trillion dollars of GDP and India has 55 billionaires for the $1.1 trillion GDP.
A guilty government got intimidated by a neo-liberal media created “civil society”. In one case the Govt. notified a committee with equal representation of ministers and the intimidators and in another case four ministers ran to seek audience of yet another intimidator, who went from rags to riches in less than a decade teaching yoga. In a
land of miracles, it is possible to avoid the gaze of the tax authorities while performing the miracle of such exponential growth. The first – “civil society” would soon end as a tragedy and second – “the Swami” has already ended as a farce. Since the “civil society” represents more than a billion Indians, more human beings than dozens of nations put together, it has decided the Constitution mandated exclusive powers the Parliamentarians to make legislation should be bypassed since there is a disconnect between the people and those they stood in line and voted for them to make law.
It followed quite logically that it is they who would determine the law of the land, the members of Parliament should merely rubber stamp the “law enacted” by the “civil Society”. Like the World Bank knows what is best for India’s economic growth, the “civil society” knows best what is legislatively correct. In case there is any doubt let there be a referendum. A much larger issue is at stake. Is the State accountable to the people through the Parliament they elect or the guilty governments would go to any length to work out compromises with any challenger skilfully propagated by the media which itself is a beneficiary of World Bank’s neo-liberalism and corny capitalism?
Today‘s political corruption is quite distinct in character to the past when political masters hiding their serfs in cow sheds at the time of formation of a Panchayat Samiti or in five star hotels and resorts at the time of formation of the State Governments. It is a phenomenon where those who make their wealth legally or even from criminal and
illegal businesses can buy legislators, like they could buy a football team, and hold the State to ransom.
This phenomenon has to be fought politically and cannot be curbed by “civil society” created ombudsman. Does it matter whether the Prime Minster is covered by the ombudsman – an omnipotent, omnipresent watchdog working within a judicial framework that is largely colonial in criminal jurisprudence? Power relations do not
In the absence of a working class movement, between a guilty government and a presumptuous “civil society” Indian politics is slowly and steadily moving towards the Latin America style of politics – where a minuscule percentage of the population control everything from politics to every sector of the economy, sustained by internal