The always interesting Sadanand Dhume prescribes some tough love for India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his latest WSJ column, explicating India's corruption problems.
Dhume argues that the "season of scandal" India has seen develop since the first inklings of rot in the Commowealth Games project "underscore a deeper anxiety reflected in the newspapers and on television each day: That in the booming new India everything—from pilot's licenses to mining permits to medical degrees—is for sale to the highest bidder. Taken collectively, the scandals paint a picture of a country that has lost its moral bearings."
He also offers a few good suggestions:
"Abolishing absurdly low election spending limits and allowing parties to raise as much cash as they need openly from corporate contributors will help by bringing regulations in line with widely accepted reality," he writes. "In a similar vein, India ought to borrow from Singapore's experience by paying senior civil servants and politicians well not merely by Indian standards but on par with their global peers in the private sector. This will not end corruption, but it will certainly reduce the incentives sharply."
Meanwhile, "At a deeper cultural level, Indians need to stop making useless distinctions between personal probity and systemic rot. Prime Minister Singh may have never taken, given or witnessed a bribe in his long and distinguished career," Dhume says. "But instead of simply graduating from bribing legislators with small planes to bribing them with jets, India must embrace a modern view of corruption—shared by most of the advanced industrialized world—that leaders are judged not merely by how they conduct themselves, but by the kind of conduct they permit on their watch. By that measure, sadly, the famously upright Mr. Singh is a miserable failure."
That's tough love for an otherwise endearing politician who's already on the ropes.