Citizens' Issues
Lessons from Hong Kong—Chase a crooked shadow (Part 3)

As the ICAC chief said at an international conference, corruption occurs when an individual abuses his authority for personal gain at the expense of other people. Corruption erodes fairness and the rule of law, and in some cases, puts lives and property at risk

In the previous part, we saw that a senior government official of Hong Kong was imprisoned and lost a huge pension, not for taking a bribe but for using his position to give illegal contracts to a relative. Can we even imagine that such a thing will happen in India? No way, given present attitudes and pressures.

But there are lessons, even in merely recapitulating how Hong Kong did it.

In the words of the current head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), the Commission has been committed to fighting corruption using a three-pronged approach of law enforcement, prevention and education. The ICAC’s first important task was to bring Godber (the policeman who ran away with a hoard of corruption money) back. Godber’s extradition and prosecution “were an unmistakable statement of ICAC’s determination and resolve to eradicate corruption. It was this landmark case that kicked off a new start against corruption and the beginning of a quiet revolution,” the chief of ICAC has said.

Hong Kong also had a strong governor committed totally to eradication of corruption, members of the ICAC who were incorruptible and a population sick of paying “squeeze” money; unlike in India where the top leadership does not give a damn, the anti-graft warriors are themselves corrupt and a population that says “everyone is doing it, so we too have to do it.”

In Hong Kong, a mass purge took place in early 1978, which saw the sacking of 119 officers and one customs official. To fast-track the decisions in the public interest; 24 officers were held on conspiracy charges and six officers and a customs official were given amnesties.

As the ICAC chief said at an international conference, corruption occurs when an individual abuses his authority for personal gain at the expense of other people. Corruption erodes fairness and the rule of law, and in some cases, puts lives and property at risk. The spirit of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance enforced by the ICAC is to maintain a fair and just society.”

Within three years of formation, the ICAC smashed all corruption syndicates in Hong Kong. In its 38 years of existence. ICAC achieved the following:

  • Eradicated all the overt types of corruption in the government. Corruption now exists as a highly secretive crime, and often involves only satisfied parties.
  • Amongst the first in the world to effectively attack private sector corruption.
  • Ensured that Hong Kong has clean elections.
  • Changed the public’s attitude to no longer tolerate corruption as a way of life; the people support the fight against corruption. They are not only willing to report corruption, but are prepared to identify themselves in the reports.

The new strategy also changed Hong Kong’s social norms regarding corruption. It organized a massive education campaign, adding anti-corruption classes to the public school curriculum, and creating anti-corruption television programming.

The Hong Kong governor general who oversaw the ICAC in Hong Kong answered to the democratically elected British Prime Minister. Hong Kong offers an example of a strong executive, accountable to a democratically elected leader, with wide discretion to pursue a mandate. Using a combination of new rules and education dramatically reduced corruption and changed public attitudes toward bribery its practice.

To quote Tagore: “Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

Also read: Hot pursuit in Hong Kong—from the investigators’ files - Part 2
     Anti-graft lessons for Anna from Hong Kong - Part 1

(R Vijayaraghavan has been a professional journalist for more than four decades, specialising in finance, business and politics. He conceived and helped to launch Business Line, the financial daily of The Hindu group. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
 

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'Indian employees to get 11.9% salary hike in 2012'

‘The projected pay hikes in indicate a positive, yet cautious, outlook by the organisations amid an uncertain economic environment:’ Aon Hewitt survey

Employees in India are likely to get this year a salary increase of 11.9%, putting the country on the top for tenth year in a row in terms of pay hikes within the Asia Pacific region, a survey showed. As per the survey conducted by global human resources consulting and outsourcing firm Aon Hewitt, the salary hikes for India in 2012 would decline marginally from 12.6% in 2011 due to a cautious approach by employers, but it would still figure among the highest in the world. According to its annual India Salary Increase Survey released here today, the projected pay hikes in indicate a positive, yet cautious, outlook by the organisations amid an uncertain economic environment.

India would see the highest salary increase in the Asia Pacific region, followed by China and the Philippines, which are likely to see 9.5% and 6.9% salary hikes, respectively, in 2012. India has topped the list in terms of salary hikes for tenth consecutive year within Asia Pacific region. Among other Asia Pacific nations, Australia is likely to see a modest 4.6% hike, Hong Kong 5%, Japan 2.8%, Malaysia 6.2% and Singapore 4.8%.

"We are seeing encouraging signs in recent weeks on business sentiments," said Sandeep Chaudhary, Practice Leader, Compensation Consulting at Aon Hewitt.
"While organizations across industries are keeping a keen and watchful eye on this oscillating macro-economic environment, the number reiterates that organizations are taking a long-term view on talent," he added.

In India, the general/entry level staff members are likely to get 11.8% salary hike, while junior manager level will see 12.3%, middle management 12% and senior management 11.1% increase this year.

The survey covered 550 organisations, representing 19 primary and 31 sub-sectors, and was conducted over a three-month period from November 2011 to January 2012.
In terms of sectors, pharmaceutical space is likely to witness a 13.3% salary hike for 2012, followed by engineering design/services projects at 13%.

Infrastructure with 12.9% and heavy engineering and FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) sectors with 12.4% hike would continue to get higher salary increases than the country-average for the second year in a row. The Information Technology (IT) and outsourcing sectors would see salary hikes of 11.9% and 11.8%, respectively, despite the continuing concerns over the impact of a weak global economy. Telecom and financial institutions are projected to see lowest salary increases for 2012 at 11% and 10%, respectively, plagued by various regulatory hurdles, policy issues and the slowdown in the global economy.

Salaries for critical talent are projected to increase by 15.1% this year, which would be higher by over three percentage points than the overall average, as India Inc is concentrating efforts on identifying top talent and rewarding them accordingly, Aon Hewitt said.

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No need to file I-T returns if salary doesn't exceed Rs5 lakh per year

There are about 85 lakh salaried persons in the country whose yearly income, including earnings from other sources like bank deposits, does not exceed Rs5 lakh.

Salaried employees earning up to Rs5 lakh per year will not be required to file income tax returns from this year, says a Finance Ministry notification. There are about 85 lakh salaried persons in the country whose yearly income, including earnings from other sources like bank deposits, does not exceed Rs5 lakh.

"An individual whose total income for the relevant assessment year does not exceed Rs5 lakh and consists of only income chargeable to income-tax under... salaries... (and) income from other sources, by way of interest from a saving account in a bank, not exceeding Rs10,000 have been exempted from filing the returns from assessment year 2012-13", it said. Exemption from filing will be permitted only if the person has received a certificate of tax deduction in Form 16 from his or her employer. To claim income tax refund, however, such persons will have to file returns.

Prior to the notification, it was obligatory for all salaried persons to file income tax returns under the Income Tax Act, 1961. It is felt that in cases where there are no other sources of income, filing of a return is a duplication of existing information, sources said.

At present, income of Rs1.80-5 lakh attracts 10% tax, Rs5-8 lakh 20% and above Rs8 lakh, 30%. The Direct Taxes Code (DTC) Bill, which is presently being scrutinised by a Parliamentary panel, proposes to raise the tax exemption limit to Rs2 lakh from Rs1.80 lakh.

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