Corruption in India Is a Model of Efficiency; LETTER FROM MUMBAI

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Byline: Richard Orange

SEEN from India, the kerfuffle about UK MPs' expenses appears almost quaint. The last person I interviewed before coming back to London last week, a senior official in the Indian government's anticorruption wing, explained how coal ministers often set monthly targets for the amount of illicit cash the chairman of the state coal monopoly had to siphon their way.

"Coal has become one of the main sources by which money is funnelled to the political parties," he said sadly. "And it's true whichever party gets into power."

Some other state industries were worse, he claimed. So I can understand the sentiments in the Letter from London, published yesterday in India's Economic Times. A friend of the paper's London correspondent, bemused at the news of moats and mortgages, exclaims: "Indian politicos are so much more efficient at corruption."

If anyone was expecting a long age of financial sobriety to follow the GFC, as acronym-loving Indians have christened the Global Financial Crisis, it hasn't happened in India.

The Sensex stock market index has shot up 80% in just three months, and is now back where it was in August 2007, just before a final frenzy pushed it to its hysterical January peak.

If Thursday's speech by Indian President Pratibha Patil, the first to the new parliament, is anything to go by, the new Congress-led government isn't planning to use its unexpectedly strong new mandate to bring in a new era of prudence either. …