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Posts Tagged ‘Political Funding’

The new government in India has promised to cut red tape and substitute it with a red carpet. This is a great promise, but one has to wait and see how it actually unfolds. India has a federal structure in place. So, unless states come on board, wannabe entrepreneurs might still be found running from pillar to post negotiating their way through the dense maze of policies, procedures and rules at all levels. A major MNC recently stated that as many as 167 approvals were required before its project could see the light of the day.

The Doing Business 2013 report of the World Bank ranks India at 134 out of 189 countries in ease of doing business. India has questioned the methodology of the World Bank. This could satisfy the ego of some patriots amongst us. But the stark reality is that the costs of setting up and running a business in India are unreasonably high.

One also needs to consider the fact that India’s infrastructure is anything but world-class. There is a mismatch between the skill set available in the labor market and the needs of the industry. Policy framework is inconsistent, giving rise to a sense of uncertainty in the mind of investors. Add to this India’s poor record in enforcing contracts due to legal delays and the tendency to slap taxes on a retrospective basis, and the high level of discomfort experienced by investors can be readily explained.

One of the most serious stumbling blocks to India’s growth story is the widespread corruption. Businesses which are driven by pure greed find this rather handy. But those which stand by business ethics and operate within the paradigm of a value system detest this scenario. The latter surely deserve all the encouragement they can get.

The new government in India would do a great service to the nation by seriously cracking down on corruption. Some baby steps do appear to have been taken, but these do not attack the root cause of the problem. It is good to chase black money stashed abroad. But steps need to be taken to stem the rot at the root level itself.

Here are some steps which could possibly help to curb the growth of the cancer of corruption:

  • Political funding needs to be brought on a transparent plane. This can only be done if there is a clear message that witch-hunting of businesses, especially in case of a change of regime, would not take place. Suitable changes in India’s taxation laws would also help. Till the time political expenditure remains obscure, red tape would continue to hinder the country’s growth.
  • Bureaucracy performs a critical function. Safeguards can be improved. A well thought-out stick-and-carrot policy can be introduced and then ruthlessly implemented. This would ensure that the tendency of some to seek rent for grant of mandatory approvals is curbed.
  • A strategic policy for use of natural resources needs to be announced and implemented. It is not only about mineral resources but also about India’s rivers, airwaves and other bounties of nature.
  • Real estate sector needs structural reforms. A stronger MIS system is the need of the hour. Uniform rates of stamp duties attracted by property transactions across the country would go a long way in creating a level-playing field. Administering collections and detecting frauds would also become easier.
  • Pushing through DTC and GST would result in better revenues. This would give the government better leeway to reduce taxes across the board. In turn, this would improve Indians’ collective honesty levels.

On their part, businesses also need to do some soul-searching. By raising the bar higher on the compliance front, they could improve their market valuation. Their brand image is bound to get a makeover for the good. In turn, this helps them to attract more business as also more skilled employees.

Once a demonstration effect sets in, the government machinery would also develop confidence and stop viewing them through a jaundiced lens of suspicion. Instead, this would enable the government to go ahead with self-certification in several areas, thereby utilizing its own human resources better.

All of these are bitter pills to swallow. But unless this pain and suffering of chemotherapy and surgery is undergone, the cancer of corruption would continue to thrive. A strong political will alone can achieve this cure of the Indian system.

[Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/a-16-point-agenda-for-the-16th-lok-sabha-of-india

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/combating-the-cancer-of-corruption%5D

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It is heartening to know that India’s civil services aspirants shall soon be taking an examination in ‘Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude’ as part of their endeavor to make a career in public administration. It is a laudable initiative, and one does hope that in the days to come, our denizens’ issues with the administration shall start getting resolved with empathy, pragmatism and promptness, sans any corrupt practices.    

As an average person, one is tempted to ask if our politicos should also be taking a similar test! We live in an era when probity in India emblempublic life is at a nadir. The conduct of some of our honorable MPs and MLAs on the floor of our august legislative bodies often leaves us red-faced and scurrying for cover. The only time we see a semblance of unity amongst politicians of different hues is when they are faced by the threat of declaring their finances under the landmark RTI Act or when trying to thwart the judiciary’s attempts to keep criminals out of our polity.

How about an Indian Political Service?!

May be, the time has come to introduce an Indian Political Service? If meritocracy has to rule, those aspiring for a career in politics can be made to first apply to a body like the Union Political Service Commission! Detailed CVs backed by details of socially relevant projects handled, vision for the future, parentage and financial backing etc will need to be submitted and made public. Thereafter, the aspirants would need to undergo a rigorous selection process, comprising a written examination, followed by a group discussion, individual PPT presentations for the benefit of their target constituents, personal interviews and the like.

A professional working license can get issued only after a five-year internship with a duly registered political party. Thereafter, the incumbent could become entitled to joining the election fray. license can be put up for renewal once every five years.

Criteria for disqualification can also be laid down. Involvement in scams of any kind, a lapse in discharge of core duties, getting convicted in a court of law, disrupting legislative work, browsing the net for pornographic content while on duty, tax arrears of any kind, etc., could lead to suspension of the license to practice.

An exhaustive appraisal system can be put in place. Performance could be rated on various aspects like development works completed in the constituency, number of new legislations introduced, hours of legislative attendance registered, besides core targets met for the portfolio handled. For re-election, the license will need to be renewed based on the ballot performance.   

Would a Management Development Program Help?India Parliament House

In case our leaders and constitutional experts declare the above mentioned approach as null and void, another option is at hand. We can ask some of our premier management institutes to design a Management Development Program for our politicians! Such a program could have modules on ethics and integrity and behavioral sciences – with a focus on etiquettes and manners. A crash course on meditation techniques could lead our politicos to do some introspection on their own part, trying to figure out ways to attract today’s educated youth into the political mainstream, handling important legislations with equipoise and equanimity, controlling passions on the floor of the house and cleaning up the finances of the parties they owe their affiliations to.

In an era of scams and systemic corruption, the reputation of our political honchos has taken a severe beating. This is not to say that there are no straight forward and honest politicians ruling us. But corruption appears to rule the roost. Whether it is through a loot of the exchequer (Westland helicopters, fodder scam), sale of patronage (allocation of natural resources) or plain extortion and rent-seeking (pay or take the highway), the ingenuity with which public money gets siphoned off to either fill the political parties’ tills or to shore up personal fortunes is something which one cannot learn at management or accounting institutes.

Connecting with the Post-reforms Generation

All political parties need to do some introspection as to how to win and influence potential voters, specifically Gen-Z, meaning those who were born in the post-reforms era and who expect performance in place of promises and delivery in place of dithering.

The writing on the wall is clear – cleaning up political funding, giving up vote bank politics, avoiding inane bickering to win India Rashtrapati Bhavanbrownie points and joining hands to work together and taking concrete steps which enable common citizens to become successful entrepreneurs and make the delicately nurtured amongst us experience true freedom.

It is apparent that as a country, India has so far focused only on economic reforms. Reforms in the other realms of a vibrant democracy, like legislature and judiciary, are yet to be conceptualized and rolled out. We have miles to go before we get to sleep!

 

 

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