Malaysia should learn from India to fight graft: The Star

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane on Sept 7, 2016.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane on Sept 7, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

In its editorial on Nov 14, the paper urges the authorities to tackle corruption and improve Malaysia's competitiveness.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India must be applauded for his ongoing anti-corruption campaign. Late Tuesday evening last week (Nov 8), he announced that effective from midnight, Rs 1,000 (S$20 ) and Rs 500 notes will no longer be legal tender in the country.

However, it will take a lot more than just removing these notes from circulation to stem corruption. Modi knows that and his record since becoming prime minister shows it.

Yes, the sudden move to take the highest denominated notes of the rupee off circulation has inconvenienced ordinary people as most still use cash for everyday transactions while reports have come in of travellers in a dilemma over their now valueless 1,000 and 500 rupee notes.

Removing these notes should just be one step in fighting corruption.

The Modi administration should look into cutting more of India's infamous red tape and bureaucracy, a major cause of corruption anywhere in the world, including in Malaysia where too often we hear of people making pay-offs in order to get things done.

To be fair, India has improved where fighting corruption is concerned but much more can be done. Transparency International (TI) ranks India at the 76th spot out of 168 countries surveyed in its Corruption Perception Index for last year, improving from the 85th spot in 2014.

The corruption perception score has stayed the same as in 2014, meaning that further action will be needed if the country were to improve in the index.

Modi, who became prime minister in May 2014, has said before that India can only progress only by ending "red-tapism", with critics often pointing out that investors have been put off by the reams of approvals needed to set up a business, a decision-making process that, according to an Indian economic data provider, has cost the country dearly, with up to US$104 billion (S$147 billion) of investments derailed.

"No red tape, only red carpet, is my policy towards investors" is how Modi encapsulates his pro-business attitude, and that has worked to the country's benefit.

An anti-corruption campaign and making changes to be more efficient go hand in hand to make a country globally competitive.

India has advanced 16 places to 39th spot out of 140 countries in the 2016-17 World Economic Forum's (WEF) ranking of global competitiveness.

Measures that have curbed corruption and boosted competitiveness include having a single application for new firms and a single-window system for building permit applications.

Malaysia has cut red tape by quite a bit but of late, global rankings have shown it slipping. The country slid four spots in TI's Corruption Perception Index last year to 54 with the corruption perception score slipping to 50 per cent from 52 per cent.

The WEF report also showed that Malaysia has fallen seven places to 25th spot out of 140 countries in the 2016-17 ranking.

That goes to show that if Malaysia wants to improve its economic performance, it must continue to tackle competitiveness and corruption issues instead of having ordinary citizens griping and trading stories around the dinner table about how they had to pay off so-and-so to get something done or to jump queue.

* The Star is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 21 media in 19 countries.