The Reality of Singapore’s Lokpal Bill and Truths about Argentina’s Public Accountability Bill
Argument should be for revealing the truth; not creating the truth.
There are two very famous messages – both polar opposite – circulating on the internet these days. One message seems to support Jan Lokpal Bill and Anna; other message denounces the Anna and Jan Lokpal Bill. My email-inbox is full of these two messages and my mobile inbox memory is crying to get relief of such messages. To get some relief from such messages and reply those who are sending me such messages again and again, here are my views on both the messages:
The Reality of Singapore’s Lokpal Bill
The message claims the following statement:
[In 1982, in Singapore, bill similar to Jan Lokpal was implemented and 142 Corrupt Ministers & officers were arrested in one single day. Today, Singapore has only 1% poor people & no taxes are paid by the people to the government, 92% literacy rate, better medical facilities, cheaper prices, 90% money is white & only 1% unemployment exists.]
I would like everyone to read report on “Eradicating Corruption – The Singapore Experience” by Mr. Muhammed Ali, acting assistant director of Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), Singapore. CPIB is the agency responsible for combating corruption in Singapore and it was formed after the Singapore got self-government in 1959 not in 1982 as claimed by message.
Next, message claims that it (CPIB) is similar to Jan Lokpal, claiming CPIB same as Jan Lokpal is madness and can be claimed by only those people who don’t analyse facts before opening their big mouths. CPIB is not a self appointed civil society without accountability and without representation of common people as Anna and his team is. CPIB works directly under the supervision of Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore but Jan Lokpal Committee as proposed by Anna and Team will be independent body with the power of making rules and regulations and will also have the power of courts and police. After reading the above report by Mr. Muhammed Ali, I think CPIB works almost same as CBI of India works. CPIB worked well because it was given powers with good salaries and they gave emphasis over making people aware of their rights. The fact CBI couldn’t make an impact was opposite, there was no emphasis over making people aware of their rights. Another important aspect that made CPIB successful was streamlining cumbersome administrative procedures and I don’t think it’s going to happen in India with Jan Lokpal Bill. Government contractors (private bodies) were also covered under the CPIB and were debarred for a period of five years from any public contract if they were found guilty. Jan Lokpal Bill doesn’t approve private institutions, NGOs, businessmen, media etc under its cover. In terms of selection of CPIB members it’s way different from the Jan Lokpal. There is another big difference that CPIB can only recommend the people found in corruption to be guilty to the courts, but Jan Lokpal does have powers of prosecution and impose penalties.
I searched, searched, and searched one more time to get any detail on the arrest of 142 corrupt ministers & officers in one single day as claimed in the message, but I couldn’t find a single report on such an incident. Has Google gone crazy or I’m searching for the report that was never written? There is not a single report on such an incident and all the results I got on Google and Bing search were the comments of the people. It was more interesting to note that almost everyone has Ctrl+Ced and Ctrl+Ved the same comment! No one even dared to edit a bit or make it look like original one!
Another important thing claimed in the message that in Singapore there is no tax is absurd, misleading and completely wrong. Singapore does have taxes and the upper limit of taxes is 20%. One more claim made in the message is about cheaper prices, but in reality Singapore is in the list of top 10 most expensive cities.
Other claims made in message are bit rational and one can agree with those claims. Medical facilities are no doubt better than India but Singapore is still way behind many other nations. Literacy rate is 96% not 92% in Singapore and unemployment rate is more than 2% not 1% as claimed in the message.
Truths about Argentina’s Public Accountability Bill
Another message that is floating on the internet is about the Argentina’s public accountability bill and economic crisis and message claims the following statement:
[In 1998, Argentina was a rich and successful country on a tremendous growth path. There was prosperity and less than 3% unemployment. Then a bill similar to Lokpal Bill was introduced called the Public Accountability Bill (Rendición Pública de Cuentas) at the behest of some people wanting an extra constitutional control over the government.
There were frivolous complaints, officials were charge sheeted, and the Bill became a tool for harassment in the hands of unaccountable persons. The result was that officials became scared to take decisions, projects were held up and the government lost credibility. The govt. handed major departments to pvt sector which, in the absence of any check, started minting money at the cost of public good. The economy of Argentina collapsed, exports stopped, there was runaway inflation, and the country plunged into poverty with 50% unemployment.]
Yes, I do agree that in the start of year 1998 Argentina’s economy was good but the decline started when economic recession started in late 1998 and this recession has nothing to do with any public accountability bill – if such bill was ever passed in Argentina. I don’t know anything about such bill as I couldn’t find the copy of it online, so I can’t comment on this bill further. (Please send me the copy of this bill if you have.) The main reasons behind the breakdown of Argentina’s economy was East Asian currency crisis of 1997-98 and the Russian currency crisis of 1998 and all these fears of further crisis made investors in developed countries much more cautious about investing in developing countries such as Argentina. Further in 1999, Brazil, which was facing its own financial crisis devaluated its own currency and that hit the Argentine exports, 30% of which were traded with Brazil at that time. Another reason was at that time Argentina had increased the taxes in-order to improve fiscal debt and government was hoping that decreasing debt will help to build trust with investors but this attempt of government failed badly. The currency conflict within country was another issue i.e. Argentine wanted to bring another currency parallel to the existing one.
No one can simply claim that accountability bill (if it was introduced) ever led to such a crisis in the country and that country suffered for more than 4years. I don’t think people who are sending such messages know even the meaning of accountability; it simply means responsibility or answerability. How can responsibility or answerability lead to such a crisis, I am unable to understand? If accountability bill would have been the reason behind the economic crisis government would have simply taken its steps back rather than taking more than 40 billion dollars loan from World Bank and other financial institutions.
Another thing claimed in the above message is government handed many of its departments to the private sector is not true. Private sector suffered a lot in that recession when government freeze the deposits and accounts to handle the free fall of economy as people were withdrawing money in hurry. And I believe freezing all these accounts and halting the businesses activity might be another reason for deepening the crisis. You also must not forget that it was almost the same time when DotCom bubble busted.
On other things said in the message, I can agree. Yes, inflation was very much high as claimed by the message but it never crossed three digits and it is reported that in year 2003 inflation came to single digit. Unemployment rose from 12.4% in 1998 to 18.3% in 2001 and 23.6% in 2002 as claimed by the many authorities in Argentina. Poverty rose to 57% in 2002 from 26% in 1998.
All these messages don’t have any ground and I consider these messages beautifully crafted tactics to mislead innocent people. These messages are trying to create a truth, and I believe creating the truth must stop as soon as possible because we are discussing the important issue of Jan Lokpal. My whole purpose of writing all this is to ask people to stop spreading rumours or misleading information and debate honestly.
P.S.: This article is in continuation to my earlier articles – “Jan Lokpal Bill: A Dalit’s Viewpoint” and “Thank God! I’m NOT Anna”. Views expressed here in this article are my personal; no-one needs to agree with me. If I have missed any news related to the above mentioned two messages please let me know in the comments section.
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