Accountability in a time of excess

Sukumar Muralidharan in Himal Southasian:

Splash If any lesson is to come out of the current financial crisis, it is that the pipedream of corporate social responsibility needs to be shelved.

By all accounts, the mood at the customary annual gathering of corporate movers and shakers at the Swiss ski resort of Davos in late January and early February was sombre, even funereal. Public sentiment outside was turning restive, as tough questions were being posed about the turmoil in the world economy. And the conclave, which has had little difficulty all these years recycling the same nostrums as the solution to all problems, for once had no answers. It could warn against the dangers inherent in abandoning the free-enterprise model and pour subtle disdain at the undeniable drift towards economic nationalism. But it could not quite come up with a credible antidote for the economic woes that were an obvious outcome of the hard-edged pursuit of the free-enterprise model.

India had the stellar representation at Davos 2009 that it has in recent years become used to, consistent with its status as a country with a fast-growing tribe of billionaires. India also had the confidence that the shockwaves emanating from the US – which has rapidly transformed itself from global economic leader to the capital of chaos – had not yet dealt their full impact on its shores. But it just narrowly managed to avert a major public-relations disaster. B Ramalinga Raju, the former chairman of the once globally toasted enterprise, Satyam Computer Services – now the first in India to be caught using the creative accounting that was once thought to be the exclusive province of US corporations – had been scheduled to address a Davos session on the education of new entrepreneurs. What he might have taught them must, unfortunately, remain in the realm of speculation, since Raju had to make a detour into one of Hyderabad’s most prominent jails, where he has since been detained to answer the charges of fraud to which he has already admitted.

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