India's Supreme Court deals blow to corruption - and foreign investors (+video)
India’s Supreme Court has ordered the government to cancel telecommunications licenses awarded in 2008 that are at the center of one of the country’s largest corruption scandals.
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“In all our interactions with FIIs the tone has changed and corruption and ensuing political risk has without question become a major concern,” reads a January 2011 assessment from Espirito Santo.Skip to next paragraph
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The bank noted at the time that the number of articles in print media about India’s corruption soared in the final quarter of 2010, according to a Factiva analysis. Espirito Santo's India chief, Nick Paulson-Ellis, told the Monitor at the time that if the media pressure on the government were to trigger a crackdown on corruption, investors in some sectors might be at risk.
Telenor reacted angrily.
"We have been unfairly treated as we simply followed the government process we were asked to," read a statement from Telenor’s joint venture in India called Uninor. "We are shocked to see that Uninor is being penalised for faults the court has found in the government process.”
While the court decision confirms that the anticorruption fervor will result in some regulatory changes, it is still unclear how thorough the cleanup will be and how long it will take.
The government has managed to drag out the process, rather than make reforms quickly to stabilize the situation and reassure investors. Weeks of mass street protests this past summer forced the government to consider a tougher version of an anti-corruption bill in parliament, but the bill remains a matter of contention.
Today’s court ruling also adds uncertainty surrounding a key figure in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government. The judges ordered a court to rule on whether Home Minister P. Chidambaram should be investigated for any role in the 2G scam.
Two ministers have already resigned over the scandal, one of whom sits in jail awaiting trial. There is concern that if Mr. Chidambaram falls too that Mr. Singh would be severely weakened.
The court’s decision sends a signal that such flagrant corruption in government will not be tolerated, which, in the long term, will help firms trying to do business in India cleanly. Most investors welcome such reforms even if they would want to sit out the time period when they are made, Mr. Paulson-Ellis told the Monitor last year.
IN PICTURES: India corruption protest
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