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.”

The Mumbai consensus

Chrystia Freeland
Oct 22, 2010 14:14 UTC

They call economics the dismal science, but Larry Summers, one of its pre-eminent public practitioners, is anything but dull. That penchant for intellectual controversy means he hasn’t always won popularity contests, but he is unfailingly stimulating, as he proved in a speech in India last week, when he hit on one of the biggest issues in the world economy today, and coined a snappy catch-phrase to describe it: the “Mumbai Consensus”.

The Mumbai Consensus, Summers said, is “people-centric.” He contrasted it both with the Washington Consensus, the U.S.-led, free-markets-and-democracy formula that seemed to have conquered the world after 1989, and with the Beijing Consensus, China’s state capitalist approach that today is winning fans in emerging markets and in some developed ones.

Summers thinks the real model to watch is India’s, the world’s largest democracy. Partly because of its political system, India’s economic rise has been powered as much by the voracity of its domestic consumers as it has by the country’s push into foreign markets. That’s a sharp contrast with China, where the focus has been on working for the rest of the world, while the Chinese people, who are poorer on average than those of Albania or Jamaica, nonetheless save more than half of their GDP.

Rise of the rest

Chrystia Freeland
Sep 30, 2010 21:01 UTC

Get ready for the next wave of globalization. The emergence of the emerging markets is old news, of course: after all, Tom Friedman discovered that the world was flat back in 2005. But even as much of the developed world is struggling with weak consumer demand and stubbornly high levels of unemployment, the emerging market countries are writing a new chapter in the story of the global economy.

We are accustomed to thinking of our economic relationship with the countries Fareed Zakaria describes as “the rest” as a two-way exchange between west and east or north and south: western companies setting up call centers in India or manufacturing their goods in China, for instance; and, more recently, savings-rich emerging market economies, especially China, investing in US treasuries, or Russian oligarchs buying London mansions.

That was Globalisation 1.0. In the next stage, some of the biggest deals and some of the most important capital flows will be between emerging markets, with no need to stop-over at Heathrow or JFK. Forget the last decade’s race-to-the-bottom rivalry between Wall Street and the City of London to be the world’s financial capital; the new motto of the moneymen, as one Manhattan banker put it to me this week, is “Mumbai, Dubai, Shanghai or goodbye.”

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