Progress in sustainable development goals in India could be severely affected, warns a global anti-graft watchdog as the country tops in terms of bribery rate in the Asia-Pacific region.
Three months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi banned high-value currency of INR 1,000 and INR 500, with an aim of arresting rampant corruption, India has the highest bribery rate in the Asia-Pacific.
This is part of the findings from the latest survey conducted by global anti-graft watchdog, Transparency International (TI). The survey is part of the Global Corruption Barometer that focuses on the results derived from interviews with nearly 22,000 people residing in 16 countries.
India leads the rogue gallery
India has the highest bribery rate of 69 pc paying up for various government services.
TI concentrated on bribes paid for procuring six key public services – public schools, public hospitals, official documents (identification card, voters’ card), public utility services, the police and courts. In India, seven in ten people with access to public services confessed to paying bribe.
The anti-corruption organisation conducted face-to-face interviews with 2,802 respondents in India between March and April 2016.
“India has got the dubious distinction of having the highest bribery rate in the Asia Pacific, with a survey showing today that more than two-thirds of Indians had to pay ‘tea money’ or fork out other forms of bribe to get public services,” the 38-page survey report said.
India was closely followed by Vietnam (65pc). Thailand (41pc), Cambodia, Pakistan and Myanmar, each with 40 pc, were next. The rate was much lower in China (26pc) and it was the lowest in Japan (0.2pc).
About 38 pc of the poorest people surveyed said they paid a bribe either for access to a service or for quicker delivery. In some countries, such as India, Pakistan and Thailand, it was the poorer section that had to bear the brunt of corruption and pay a bribe.
Nearly 73 pc of those, who paid bribe in India, belonged to the poorer sections of society. In Pakistan and Thailand, this percentage was 64 and 46 respectively.
Bribery widens inequality
The impact of corruption on poverty, illiteracy and police brutality shows that not only is the economy growing, but so is the inequality.
Should India worry about high bribery practices? Probably, yes. “With high bribery risks for public services found in a number of countries in the region, government progress against the sustainable development goals will remain unachievable unless mechanisms are introduced to clean up public service delivery,” the survey report warned.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in 2015 by all the 194 member states of the United Nations. To be achieved by 2030, the SDG replaced the Millennium Development Goals.
Talk Less, Act More
José Ugaz, chairman of Transparency International, observed that governments must remove barriers to end corruption.
“It’s time to stop talking and start acting. Millions of people are forced to pay bribes for public services and it is the poor who are most vulnerable,” said Ugaz.
He explained that without proper law enforcement, corruption will thrive. “Bribery is not a small crime. It takes food off the table; it prevents education; it impedes proper healthcare and ultimately it can kill,” Ugaz added.
A number of barriers to end endemic corruption include poor whistle-blower protection, impunity for the corrupt and a lack of awareness of existing effective reporting channels.
Interestingly, a silver lining is that over a half of the respondents from India were positive about the government’s efforts to combat bribery.