Tuesday, January 18, 2011

India's Business Elite Urges Government to Stamp Out Corruption

A group of prominent Indians has called on their political leaders to address rising corruption and a governance deficit in the country. Graft has emerged as a key concern in India after several corruption scandals hit the headlines in recent months.

The 14 signatories to the "Open Letter to Our Leaders" include heads of some of India’s top companies, such as Wipro Limited and the Godrej Group, bankers and judges.

They want corruption to be tackled on a war footing, saying its corrodes the fabric of the nation. The letter also expresses alarm at what it calls a widespread governance deficit in the government, business and institutions.

The spotlight has been on official graft after allegations that sale of telecom spectrum in 2008 was mishandled, resulting in losses of billions of dollars of revenue, and that kickbacks were involved in contracts awarded for last year’s Commonwealth Games.

Independent political analyst in New Delhi, Prem Shankar Jha, says the letter reflects the growing concern about the impact that graft could have on the spectacular economic growth India has had in recent years.

"I think there is a widespread fear in the middle class and in the new industrialist business aristocracy that the progress that India has been making is not sustainable if there is not political reforms to accompany the process. The political system we have today is corrupt beyond belief and the rebellion is coming out against it from all over," said Jha.

The Congress-led government, whose credibility has been hit because of the allegations of corruption, has promised to punish those found guilty of graft.

The head of the ruling Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, has called corruption a "disease spreading in our society," and says measures must be adopted to curb it.

It is widely accepted that graft, which ranges from petty bribes to bigger kickbacks, is a part of life in India.

The letter by corporate leaders - the first of its kind - wants the government to establish independent anti-corruption bodies so that investigative agencies are free of political interference.

The letter also calls on leaders to take steps to restore the self-confidence and self-belief of Indians in themselves, the state, business and public institutions.

Political analysts say the signatories to the letter have unimpeachable credentials and the concern they are voicing should be a wake-up call for the government to clean up the system.

Source http://www.voanews.com/english/news/asia/Indian-Business-Leaders-Call-on-Government-to-Address-Rising-Corruption-114110144.html

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cameron faces backbench rebellion over EU vote

David Cameron faces a serious rebellion from his backbenchers tonight when a bill on the referendum lock goes before the Commons.

MPs will debate amendments to the bill, with veteran eurosceptic Bill Cash putting forward a series of radical changes.

Tory backbencher Douglas Carswell branded the bill, which would ensure a referendum in the case of a "significant" EU treaty, "smoke and mirrors".

"This bogus EU bill is no substitute for the referendum we were promised. Nothing in this bill will cause the permanent British representatives in Brussels, who really decide Europe policy, to change course," he wrote on his blog.

Mr Cameron originally promised the referendum lock in opposition, when it became clear that his promise of a referendum on the Lisbon treaty would not be possible.

But Tory backbenchers have been dismayed by the moderate tone adopted towards the EU from the prime minister and his foreign secretary, William Hague, since they arrived in office.

Combined with the unconcealed pro-European credentials of the Conservatives' Lib Dem coalition partners, many eurosceptic backbenchers are intensely uncomfortable with the way Britain's relationship with the EU is being managed.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Hague insisted the bill would protect Britain from any further expansion of EU jurisdiction.

"The truth is that only in a few minor areas does it give the ministers of the day any discretion at all about the calling of a referendum - and then only if they can persuade parliament and the courts that they are right," he wrote.

"When it becomes an act this will be the strongest defence of national democracy put in place anywhere in Europe. It is a massive advance for national democracy."

But Labour is unimpressed by the law, especially the judicial review aspect, which they say hands power to judges which should be in the hands of elected representatives.

"Even the foreign secretary must know this bill is a dogs dinner," said shadow foreign secretary Yvette Cooper.

"This bill is about failed Tory party management not the issues that matter for Britain in Europe. Instead of concentrating on things like growth, exports or cross border crime, William Hague is wasting time trying and failing to keep his eurosceptics happy.

"Even worse, the bill is so badly drafted and contradictory that it could lead to a lawyers paradise where important decisions happen in court rather than parliament."

MPs will debate the bill this afternoon.

Source http://www.politics.co.uk/news/foreign-policy/cameron-faces-backbench-rebellion-over-eu-vote-$21386606.htm