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Bank accounts and Toilets: India’s corruption markers

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San Francisco: Bank accounts and toilets—these are the places to look at to figure out where India stands in its fight against corruption, said Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s minister of state for commerce and industry, while speaking at the Fortune Global Forum conference on Tuesday.

190 million Indian citizens have opened bank accounts for the first time, and that too in little over a year, even though the average account balance is just about $21 or Rs 1380.

“Financial inclusion” has been one of the prime areas of concentration for the Modi government, said Sitharaman. Apart from improving the finances of India’s poorest, this step can also help combat corruption.

When pensions are paid, or government officials are paid in cash, in most cases, middle men take a portion of the wages. But now, with the government wiring the money directly to the employees’ bank accounts, incidents of fraud have gone down to a large extent.

The simple act of counting toilets can give a glimpse into India’s journey towards a corruption-free nation, said Sitharaman.

The government has poured in money for 60 years towards the installation of toilets in small villages around the nation, but most were never installed, she added. However, the past year has seen a major push by the government to improve sanitation. This in turn has reduced corruption.

“India was spending money to put toilets in schools, but god knows where the money went,” says Sitharaman.

McKinsey managing director, Dominic Barton said that a recent report from the consulting firm found that apart from making a difference in the lives of its citizens, Indian government’s reforms were also attracting foreign businesses to the country.

“Three years ago, when clients would ask about doing business in India, I would say, ‘Don’t waste your time. It’s too complicated and too difficult,’” said Barton. “That’s changed dramatically.”

(Quotes and inputs from Fortune.com)

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The United States Of America Drops Out Of Top 20 Corrupt Countries

For the 2018 index, 180 countries were surveyed. Denmark and New Zealand topped the list while Somalia, Syria, and South Sudan were at the bottom.

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U.S. President Donald Trump is seen through his transparent teleprompter as he speaks during the Missile Defense Review announcement at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 17, 2019. VOA

A global anti-corruption watchdog says the United States has dropped four spots in its list of nations’ anti-corruption efforts and is now no longer listed in the top 20 for the first time.

Acting U.S. Representative at Transparency International, Zoe Reiter, calls a four point drop in the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) a “red flag.”

She says it comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing “threats to its system of checks and balances” and an “erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power.”

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Caravans from Central America have inflamed the debate over U.S. immigration policy, with U.S. President Donald Trump using the migrants to try to secure backing for his plan to build a border wall on the frontier with Mexico., VOA

“If this trend continues, it would indicate a serious corruption problem in a country that has taken a lead on the issue globally,” Reiter says.

The United States scored a 71 in the perceptions index after scoring 75 the previous year.

“The expert opinion captured by the CPI supports the deep concern over corruption in government reported by America in our 2017 survey. Both experts and the public believe the situation is getting worse,” Reiter said.

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Bulgarian anti-corruption protesters march during a demonstration in downtown Sofia, VOA

Transparency International uses several criteria for measuring how well a country is fighting corruption, including checks and balances on political power, controls on conflicts of interest and private influence on government, and voter suppression.

Also Read: World’s Anti-Corruption Day

For the 2018 index, 180 countries were surveyed. Denmark and New Zealand topped the list while Somalia, Syria, and South Sudan were at the bottom. (VOA)