Dismantle govt`s discretionary powers: Adi Godrej

Leading industrialist Adi Godrej said that govt`s discretionary powers should be done away with in order to tackle graft.

Last Updated: Nov 13, 2011, 23:17 PM IST

Mumbai: Noting that just a strong Lokpal is
not enough to tackle corruption, leading industrialist Adi
Godrej on Sunday said that the government`s discretionary powered
should be done away with to weed out the malaise.

"I don’t think only a strong Lokpal, even the kind of
the Lokpal Bill that Anna Hazare`s team has suggested, will by
itself solve the problem.

"I think we have to dismantle government’s discretionary
handling of things," the Godrej Group Chairman said at a
special session on the fallout of the corruption movement in
the country, at the WEF-CII organised India Economic Summit
here.

At the same summit, Minister of State for Planning,
Science, Technology and Earth Sciences, Ashwani Kumar said
that the government has announced a series of measures to
tackle corruption and is set to propose for consideration
seven bills in the forthcoming session of the Parliament.

Kumar further said that these include bill to protect
whistleblowers and a bill to prevent bribery by foreign
officials.

"Legislation cannot be made under public frenzy," he
argued, referring to widespread civil society protests in the
summer, saying the protests had turned "we the people" into
"we the mob".

Godrej, on the other hand, said the country is suffering
from not just corruption in business -to-government dealings,
but also petty corruption that almost every citizen has to
face. This is hurting the economy and preventing Indian and
foreign companies from investing in India.

He said that corruption could be significantly reduced
by making government processes and decision-making transparent
and non-discretionary.

"Punishment for corruption must be swift and certain,"
he said, adding that it is more important in the long run to
create an economic environment where such acts do not pay;
this can be achieved by ensuring reasonable levels of taxes
and relatively quick legal redress.

He further said industry body CII has framed a "code of
business ethics" that many businesses are supporting.

"If we are able to fight corruption successfully, I think
it will considerably increase foreign investment. I also think
if we are able to reduce corruption considerably, it can add
about a percentage point to the country’s GDP growth," Godrej
said.

On the black money issue, Godrej said he was amused as to
why the money has to be kept in Swiss banks which fetch around
1 per cent interest when parking it in the domestic financial
system can fetch it a minimum of 8 per cent.

The government should make it appealing for such persons
to keep the money onshore through its policies, he said.

Civil society member Kiran Bedi, at the summit, said
that there was a huge trust deficit and the government must
include provisions in the "Lokpal Bill" to include all
government officials, including law-makers and judicial
officials under the ambit of the law.

"It must make bidding of all valuable contracts
transparent and all political donations public," she said.

However, both Ashwani Kumar and Bedi disagreed with a
suggestion from Kaushik Basu, Chief Economic Advisor in the
Finance Ministry, for legalising bribe-giving.

But, the idea found some support from Adi Godrej, who said
the scheme can work if we cap the bribe to be paid to smaller
amounts say Rs 10,000.

A recent Transparency International survey revealed that
two in four Indians accepted having paid a bribe in the
previous year, against an average of one in four globally.

However, 74 per cent said corruption could be beaten,
against just 49 per cent elsewhere.

PTI