Friday, 29 April 2011

The Massive Flight of Capital

The growth of the economy at 9.5% sounds mouthwatering, but wait till the following views might serve as a spoiler, an eye opener, only to leave your mouths dry. Pun unintended.
With a 2 trillion dollar economy, bustling at 9.5%, ever wondered, why there is not much to see on the ground, barring a few shining islands of excellence that you see peppered around the country (read major metro cities) yet still running up a huge fiscal deficit that successive ministers/govts fail to rein in ?
Politicians and powers that be will always take refuge behind the reasoning of the country's mammoth population and the efficiencies/inefficiencies of the great democracy India is, to put to rest any one pointing to the lack of an efficient system, and importantly the lack of an equitable system.
Everyone in the country loves the idea of capital coming in to the country, be it through FDIs, stock markets, outsourced jobs et al.
If the people of the country are hardworking, talented, and enterprising, the political class, bureaucracy, and powerfully rich individuals have let the country down big time.
We talk of country-wide scams adding up to big numbers, all associated to some politico or another. My take is, siphoning money off by a few select individuals in power in international trade dealings, though ethically absolutely wrong, is not so much of an issue for us all, so far as the money stays in the country black or white. Read on...
Its the flight of capital out of the country, for good, thats worrisome.
We are a nation that was ruled by foreigners, and still reel under the influence of a colonial hangover. The powerful and the political class do not mind serving as the agents of loot for erstwhile and currently rich foreigners in this new age economy too.
Its called the art of global politics, that in the age of globalization makes it all the more justifiable for the country's power brokers to cement their individual global standing by appeasing and pleasing their western and now also the nouveau rich eastern masters.
There are several known channels from where the flight of capital out of the country is made possible.

- Slush funds making their way in and out of the stock markets.
- Highly leveraged complex financial instruments introduced into the country by foreign financial institutions to tap into the greed quotient of a bubbling economy, understood well by a few and very well by only a select few.
- Unaccounted money stashed away in Swiss banks and those lesser known CROOK'S Island.
- Shady non-transparent defence, power, energy deals.

While we all revel and celebrate in our new found status of a powerful emerging economy amplified by our own sound bytes, there's a backdoor virus thats eating away deep into the foundation of our economy.
The country's fiscal state is held to ransom at the hands of the political class, and a few wealthy individuals, who've known to get around the system by decoding well this messy system that this great country operates in.
Investments in defense deals here takes the cake from among the three key points listed above.
With spends that are a significant chunk of the country's GDP, several deals involve buying of military hardware from western nations that are outdated and/or non-usable in the western economies itself, and our government terms it as upgradation of our defense systems. To rub salt to injury, there's a huge premium paid to these mostly western suppliers, much more than the market price, to get these upgrades into the country too; recent Russian deals being a case in point.
I wonder how many RTIs are raised for information seeking defense deal details. Perhaps these deals qualify for special immunity against RTI due to its classified nature, and thats probably what makes it a classical "protected" loot.

While all of this happens, we Indians will continue toiling away, with little clue about the gaping holes that allow this leak from the country's exchequer.

To make matters worse, all of this capital outflow, also translates to inflation created more out of artificial suppression on the supply side and less on the demand side.
For a country the size of India, rich in resources and vast areas that can be developed in to cultivable agricultural land and new urban zones, the premium that land attracts in the country is unjustifiable, despite the large population.
Guess what? thats just another route for our hard earned money to get into govt. coffers first and then fly out of the country.
The same laws then also apply to rising food, fuel and commodity prices. The Iraq, Afghanistan war stories, unrest in the middle-east in the name democracy, is for all to see, but its for us to assess the real implications once the dust settles. Not too difficult to guess who is orchestrating all of that eh!!

Please loot if you really have to "hey politicians", but plz ensure that you don't enable the capital to make its way to a foreign land. You can run mini-economies with that loot within this large country itself, with tangible benefits that our country can accrue out of your talents.
Go global by all means, but think local, when it comes to reaping the fruits of your loot.

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