Opinion

Chrystia Freeland

Corruption and India’s 1 percent

Chrystia Freeland
Nov 18, 2011 00:05 UTC

The only important question in the West right now is how to restart stalled economic growth. So it is easy to be dazzled by India, where a 7 percent rise in gross domestic product is the nightmare scenario, and optimists are shooting for 9.

But Indians themselves are starting to worry about how that growth is being achieved — and who is benefiting. The headline complaint is corruption. That is nothing new here, of course. But the country now has a middle class self-confident enough to feel humiliated by paying quotidian bribes and resentful of the rise of baksheesh billionaires. Anna Hazare’s hunger strike became a national political event because it tapped into this anger of the urban bourgeoisie.

“India has been overwhelmed by corruption scams,” said Kiran Bedi, the first woman officer in India’s elite police service and one of Hazare’s chief lieutenants. “While it has been apparent that India is shining, India has also been declining in many ways in that there has been rampant exposure of corruption.”

Nor is it just the activists who say that alongside India’s remarkable economic surge the rot has been spreading, too.

“Corruption is endemic,” said Rajiv Lall, chief executive of the Infrastructure Development Finance Company, a partly state-owned financial institution. “I don’t think anybody here is pretending that there’s no corruption in the country. And corruption can take on a new dimension, especially in this time of great transformation.”

George Soros’ advice for the euro zone

Chrystia Freeland
Nov 11, 2011 00:18 UTC

Europeans could use a little cheering up this week. One man who is trying to do that is George Soros. He knows his way around a currency crisis, of course, and he isn’t usually accused of being a Pollyanna. Soros thinks it is not too late to save Europe and the euro — but he warns that time is running out and that Europe’s leaders must fundamentally change their strategy to succeed.

Let’s start with the bad news. “Right now, the crisis has hit a new high, because there’s an unresolved government crisis in Greece and in Italy,” Soros said. “There is also a looming worsening of the financial crisis, because all the efforts to leverage the E.F.S.F. have run into legal or technical difficulties.” He was referring to the European Financial Stability Facility, the bailout fund for the euro zone.

“That means that currently Europe has no ring fence against a possible Greek default, and that is what is pushing the market into a renewed panic,” he said. “I expect the market to fall into despair and panic and I expect that to get worse.”

Do things look different from north of the border?

Chrystia Freeland
Nov 8, 2011 00:40 UTC

My column last week on how a few members of the 1 percent are responding to Occupy Wall Street provoked some vehement responses, many of which appear in the comments to my post. One of the most interesting, though, was sent to me by email from a Canadian reader who thinks U.S. business elites are more sympathetic to OWS than my column suggested. I hope he is right — but I wonder whether his and his clients’ (he is a prominent art dealer) sympathy for OWS is partly a reflection of how much Canadian and U.S. political culture, particularly at the top, diverge. I’m publishing his comments below, and I hope you’ll tell me what you think.

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Chrystia Freeland, editor of Thomson Reuters Digital, has fumbled the ball again.

Thinking that Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is the left wing alternative to the corporately funded Tea Party Movement, she finds it paradoxical that former Canadian prime minister Paul Martin and former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo would be supportive. After all, Martin is a “millionaire businessman,” and Zedillo “serves on the boards of blue chips Procter & Gamble and Alcoa.”

Welfare bums vs crony capitalists

Chrystia Freeland
Nov 4, 2011 15:12 UTC

 

Paul Martin and Ernesto Zedillo are members in good standing of the global elite. Martin is a former Canadian prime minister, finance minister, deficit hawk and, in his life before politics, multimillionaire businessman. Zedillo is a former president of Mexico, holds a doctorate in economics, directs Yale University’s Center for the Study of Globalization, and serves on the boards of the blue chips Procter & Gamble and Alcoa.

Yet when I interviewed the two of them in a wide-ranging public conversation last week, hosted by the Center for International Governance Innovation, an independent, nonpartisan Canadian research organization, they sounded an awful lot like the people camped out in Zuccotti Park in New York.

Neither Zedillo nor Martin had sympathy for the complaint that Occupy Wall Street lacked a clear agenda. As Zedillo put it: “These criticisms — ‘Oh, they don’t have an agenda, they only pose problems and provide no solutions’ — well, they are citizens and they have earned the right to express a very serious, real problem.”

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