Perceptions matter, and despite the Narendra Modi government’s tall claims, India just can’t seem to shake off the image of being a corrupt country.
For the year 2017, India was ranked 81st by Berlin-based Transparency International in its report on the perceived level of corruption in the public sectors of 180 countries. The country slipped two places from 2016.
India’s score remained unchanged from the previous year at 40, which is below the average score of 43. The annual study, which ranks countries between zero (highest level of corruption) and 100 (least corrupt), found India among the worst in the Asia-Pacific region.
India’s ranking has worsened in the year following the November 2016 note ban, which was touted as a move to choke corruption and curb the generation of black money or unaccounted cash. In 2017, the government introduced the landmark goods and services tax in a bid to expand the formal economy.
Interestingly, the study found that countries with the least press freedom tend to be the most corrupt.
“When individuals dare to challenge the status quo, they suffer the consequences…The Philippines, India and Maldives are among the worst regional offenders in this respect. These countries score high for corruption and have fewer press freedoms and higher numbers of journalist deaths. In the last six years, 15 journalists working on corruption stories in these countries were murdered,” it said.
In India, at least six journalists were killed between 2016 and 2017, according to data provided by the Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-profit organisation working on press freedom issues.
The country ranks even worse than China, which is “permanently under threat from authorities” and is at the 77th place with a score of 41.
In spite of Modi’s hard sell of the change he is bringing about in India, it looks like the old perceptions are unlikely to change anytime soon.