Excellencies, Ladies, and Gentlemen, Namaskar!
I extend a very warm welcome to all of you to the first ever G20 Anti-Corruption Ministerial Meeting in physical format. You are meeting in Kolkata - the city of Nobel Laureate Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. In his writings, he had cautioned against greed, because it prevents us from realizing the truth. The ancient Indian Upanishads also wished for ‘Ma Gridha’, meaning ''let there be no greed''.
The impact of corruption is felt the most by the poor and the marginalized. It affects resource utilization. It distorts markets. It impacts service delivery. And, ultimately, it diminishes people's quality of life. In the Arthashastra, Kautilya asserts that the government's duty is to enhance the State's resources to maximize the welfare of its people. Achieving this goal requires combating corruption. And, that is why, fighting corruption is our sacred duty to our people.
India has a strict policy of Zero Tolerance against corruption. We are leveraging technology and e-governance to create a transparent and accountable eco-system. Leakages and gaps in welfare schemes and government projects are being plugged. Hundreds of million people in India have received direct benefit transfers into their bank accounts. The value of such transfers has crossed 360 billion dollars, saving us over 33 billion dollars. We have also simplified various procedures for businesses. Automation and digitization of government services have eliminated rent-seeking opportunities. Our Government e-Marketplace, or GeM portal, has brought greater transparency in government procurement. We have also been aggressively pursuing economic offenders. We enacted the Economic Offenders Act in 2018. Since then, we have recovered assets worth over one point eight billion dollars from economic offenders and fugitives. Under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, our government has attached assets worth more than 12 billion dollars since 2014.
The issue of fugitive economic offenders is a challenge for all G20 countries and for the Global South. At my very first G-20 Summit in 2014, I had spoken on this very issue. At the G-20 Summit in 2018, I presented a nine-point agenda for action against Fugitive Economic Offenders and for Asset Recovery. And, I am pleased to note that decisive steps are being taken by your group. We welcome the action-oriented High Level Principles on three priority areas: Law enforcement cooperation through information sharing; Strengthening asset recovery mechanisms; and Enhancing integrity and effectiveness of anti-corruption authorities. I am glad that an understanding has been reached on informal cooperation between law enforcement agencies. It will prevent criminals from exploiting legal loopholes when crossing borders. Timely asset tracing and identification of proceeds of crime is equally important. We also need to encourage countries to enhance their domestic asset recovery mechanisms. To expedite the recovery of foreign assets, G20 countries can set an example by using non-conviction -based confiscation. This will ensure swift return and extradition of criminals after due judicial process. And, it will send a strong signal about our joint fight against corruption.
As G20, our collective efforts can significantly support the fight against corruption. We can make a difference through enhanced international cooperation and implementation of robust measures that address the root causes of corruption. We also need to give due regard to the role of audit institutions in our fight against corruption. Above all, besides strengthening our administrative and legal systems, we must foster a culture of ethics and integrity in our value systems. Only by doing so, can we lay the foundation for a just and sustainable society. I wish you all a productive and successful meeting.