India is the world’s largest democracy, known for lively debate and an active press. As the country has developed, however, the public has grown skeptical of both the media and politicians.
To promote greater transparency and accountability, Govindraj Ethiraj, a well-known business journalist, set up IndiaSpend, a non-profit that aims to generate data-driven journalism. Read more
Crime, ill-gotten gains and violence are closely linked with electoral politics in India and with 30 per cent of lawmakers in the outgoing parliament facing criminal charges, the issue of ‘money and muscle power’ in the world’s largest democracy has once again emerged as a serious concern in the ongoing general election.
Civil rights groups such as the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) have mounted a robust campaign to educate voters about the background of the candidates and have joined hands with 1,200 non-government organisations across the country to drive home the message. Read more
The Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka, a country that still represses civil liberties, has prompted attacks on the attendees and the body itself.
To Roger Boyes in the Times, the association of 53 states – including many frontier markets – is a “country club for corrupt leaders“. The Economist has urged the group to push more for free trade and freedom – or die.
Which raises the question: how badly does the Commonwealth fare when it comes to human rights and civil liberties? Do the Commonwealth nations of Africa score much better than those outside the club? Read more
When it comes to big EM companies and reporting standards, there is a lot to be desired. That’s the conclusion of a new report by Transparency International, which has compiled a scorecard for the 100 biggest emerging markets companies.
But not all EMs are alike. China in particular comes in for a lot of criticism. Read more
You are on national television in a country known for censorship. You are talking to one of that country’s most influential policy makers. What do you tell him? That the country’s companies have serious problems with transparency, ethical practices and treatment of employees. Are you dreaming?
Not if your name is Richard Edelman, head the world’s largest independent public relations company. It has just happened to you at the World Economic Forum in Dalian, China. Read more
By Vinod Thomas of the Asian Development Bank
Indicators of country performance have received a great deal of attention lately in the wake of the controversy regarding the use of the World Bank’s Doing Business (DB) indicator—which ranks countries on the basis of eleven combined attributes of investment regulation. A good part of the recent debate has focused on DB’s country rankings.
Yet the principles and methods also deserve careful attention. A central analytical issue involves the gap between what an index is understood to measure and what it actually captures. Read more
It’s hard to quantify an authoritarian crackdown. How do you measure curbs on free speech? And when a protest movement has many facets and disparate aims, they can be even harder to gauge, let alone put in numbers.
However, when it comes to the internet, there is one source that shows how keen authorities in different countries are on stifling criticism and controlling the debate. And if anyone had been paying attention back in 2012, the current protests in Turkey might have been less of a surprise. Chart of the week takes a look. Read more
Tim Gosling and Nicholas Watson in Prague
A bribery and spying scandal that exploded onto television screens last week in a series of police raids on the prime minister’s office and other ministries has forced Czech premier Petr Necas to resign, in a move which will automatically bring down his government.
The resignation leaves his party and its partners scrambling to form a new centre-right coalition administration. But with the new leftist President Milos Zeman in office and an opposition riding high in the polls, early elections look increasingly likely. Read more
By Verónica Taracena, Guatemala’s Presidential Commissioner of Transparency and E Government
Infrastructure investment in Latin America is expected to total $450bn for the period 2011-2015. The OECD has estimated that, globally, 10-30 per cent of investment in infrastructure is lost from mismanagement, inefficiency and corruption. Unsurprisingly, many Latin American countries are calling for greater transparency and accountability in public infrastructure. Read more
The court verdict that this week found Janez Jansa, the former prime minister, guilty of accepting bribes in the long-running “Patria” procurement scandal surprised many and has further polarised the Slovene population.
For many outside observers, including European Union officials, it was a step in the country’s much-needed fight against corruption. But for Jansa’s conservative faithful, it was a shock – as shown in this video where one ardent supporter outside the courthouse castigates the “crazy judges”.
But will the verdict make any difference to the practical ethics of doing business in Slovenia? Read more
Slovenia’s former prime minister has been found guilty of taking bribes in a €278m arms deal in the biggest case of alleged corruption to surface in the troubled ex-Yugoslav republic.
Janez Jansa follows two other former premiers in the south east Europe to be convicted of financial wrongdoing, the ex-leaders of Croatia and Romania. Meanwhile in Serbia, the country’s richest businessman was arrested late last year for alleged embezzlement. A long-run campaign by the EU against corruption in its present and future new member states may finally be producing results. Read more
Enrique Peña Nieto’s clean-cut image is matched by his enthusiasm for transparency, a theme that ran through his election campaign and he has followed through while in power. The Mexican president and his Cabinet recently published audited statements of their personal income, properties and other assets. Read more
Ever been put off buying property in emerging markets because of a lack of market transparency? Well, it may be time to think again.
EM countries such as Turkey, until recently plagued by uncertainty, have made huge strides in real estate transparency, according to the latest biannual survey by Jones Lang Lasalle, an international real estate agent. Read more
India’s top lobbyist Niira Radia, who represented the country’s two most powerful tycoons, Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani, has decided to exit the PR business a year after leaked tapes dragged her into the centre of the country’s multi-billion dollar telecoms scandal.
Her departure will rob Indian public life of a colourful character and reduce by one the myriad channels by which Indian business tries to influence Indian politics. But her exit may be no bad thing for India’s scandal-tarnished democracy. Read more
To the casual observer, South Africa might look like something of a poor relation at this week’s Brics summit on the lush Chinese island of Hainan. At 3.5 per cent, its expected GDP growth this year is by far the lowest in this club of high-growth economies. Its gross domestic product last year was just $357bn, about one-sixteenth of China’s.
Yet when it comes to transparency and business standards, the other Brics could learn a thing or two from their new drinking buddy. Read more
By Nick Watson of Business New Europe
Once feted in Ukraine as the country’s star foreign investor, ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company, is discovering the every day realities of dealing with Ukraine’s officials are anything but stellar.
After successfully fighting off what it called an attempt to renationalise its Ukrainian steel mill last October, the Luxemburg-based group must have breathed a sigh of relief. But the respite, it seems, was only temporary. Read more
One year into his presidential term, has Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovich started to deliver on his pledges to cut corruption, reduce red tape and improve the country’s miserable investment climate?
The honest answer is “not really”, although the generous might be inclined to say “not yet”. With the International Monetary Fund supervising the economy under the terms of a $15.5bn rescue loan, the administration should be working over-time to clean up business life. It is not. Read more
As far as Russia is concerned, the WikiLeaks disclosures don’t add a lot to the sum of human knowledge. Government officials from the US and elsewhere are quoted publicly saying what they have long claimed in private – that Russia is governed by a corrupt elite dominated by the security services and linked to organised crime.
The question is what impact will these allegations have on the behaviour of Russia’s leaders headed by Vladimir Putin, the “alpha dog” prime minister, who plays “Batman” to president Dmitry Medvedev’s “Robin”, as the leaked cables so memorably put it. Read more
Argentina has a domestic equivalent to the Wikileaks scandal: a Buenos Aires court is currently scrutinising more than 20,000 emails from the computer of a top aide to the former transport minister. Among a variety of allegations, the court is examining whether the ex-minister, Ricardo Jaime, paid subsidies over the purchase of train rolling stock based on false receipts. His lawyer has noted none of the emails is from, or addressed to, Mr Jaime, and he has denied other allegations being investigated including that companies picked up the rental bill for flats he lived in. Read more
How do 25 anti-fraud investigators track €347bn ($454bn) of taxpayers’ money? The question is at the heart of a new FT investigation into the European Union’s structural funds – monies which are meant to boost the group’s weakest economies. The funds may be well-intentioned, but the investigation finds that there’s often little oversight and much waste.
Structural funds matter to emerging Europe: the risk of losing them was, according to some analysts, crucial in Hungary’s recent commitment to a lower budget deficit. So accusations of irregularities are likely to cause alarm. Readers can access the FT’s investigation online at www.ft.com/eufunds, with stories, analysis and graphics published throughout this week. The highlights include: an analysis of how Poland has successfully spent its funds on road-building; a look at the difficulties in investigating fraud (Wednesday); and recommendations for the reform of the structural funds (Friday). In an age of austerity, with regional solidarity already faltering, Europe needs to get more bang for its buck.