White paper on black money

It is welcome that the government has presented a white paper on black money in Parliament for it suggests that it is aware of the problem and that it may no longer be conveniently swept under the carpet whatever the efficacy of the solutions offered. Black money has been around for a long time and the government has shown no urgency so far to curb this menace.

Whatever faltering steps it has taken over the years in this direction have hardly had any effect. This is because all sorts of vested interests flourish and have a stake in the prosperity of the parallel economy and these include members of the political establishment as also the major political parties whose financing is something that is not completely aboveboard. It is because of this complexity of factors that black money and the parallel economy has flourished at the cost of the honest taxpayers. It hardly needs saying that had the government had the will it could have curbed black money long ago. It is only now that an anti-corruption movement has gained momentum in the country and people want to crackdown on unaccounted wealth that the government has responded with a white paper on black money. With public sentiments strongly against corruption this may be the opportune moment to push through reforms that would have the effect of rolling back the parallel economy. This is a reason for the government’s white paper to be examined carefully. It is of interest therefore that the white paper has talked of comprehensive reforms to introduce transparency and accountability in the process of allocation of natural resources. It has talked of independent regulators, ombudsmen, enhanced accountability of auditors, protection of whistle-blowers and witnesses and the strengthening of social values. While these are all welcome suggestions, it has to be noted that  none of them are particularly new or original.

It may be pointed out that the existence of preventive government structures and laws has not stopped large-scale scams from taking place within the government itself leading to the misappropriation of huge amounts of public funds. The government has also not distinguished itself in the protection and backing given to honest officials who enforce the taxation and related policies. Perhaps this was all that was necessary to do to control the flourishing black economy and to pull back the funds that are now stashed abroad. All that is required to combat black money is not a white paper but political will which, unfortunately, has been lacking.
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