India is clueless about how to resolve the current economic crisis?
For over a year, the world has been sliding into the grip of recession. First it was America, then Europe and now Japan. It was naive of our Harvard and Oxford educated FM & PM to keep denying that India would not be affected from the crisis. They kept shouting that India was fundamentally strong and that the crisis would not impact the Indian economy. Even after issuing a ‘Token Bailout’ package the Congress government believed India was better compared to the rest of the crisis affected economies. But of late, congress has accepted the fact that 2009 would be worse.
The height of irresponsibility and lack of knowledge is evident from the fact that Indian Government also did what America was doing i.e. issue a bailout package. India should have acted differently. But why apply brains? Just copy what USA is doing – copying others is the biggest folly of our selfish and mindless politicians !! Way back in August 2008, i wrote for Financial Express supplement – SME World about the impending crisis. This article got published in November 08 issue of the magazine (download the original article from http://www.rajendra.collectivex.com ). But the contents were very much available on my blogs much earlier. I had clearly mentioned that the crisis in India started much earlier and the government was a silent spectator. It did nothing to correct it. Now it is acting posthumously. The moment banks started hiring recovery agents , the crisis has started. After all , banks don’t hire recovery agent for small NPA’s.
I see quite a few reasons for this illogical and irresponsible bailout step. Why should bailout be avoided and what did the current government to the economy. Listing a few view points
• Indian government and our foreign educated PM & FM are totally clueless about the crisis , so leave alone management of the crisis
• They quickly hired foreign experts in their advisory council. Irony is that these foreign experts have rarely stayed in India and know little about the realities on the ground. Adding to this , they had the so called Knowledge commission , P.M’s advisory council, Economic advisory council and many such sinecure posts to keep the sycophants and power hungry corrupt people on benches on our tax payers money
• Political compulsions & uncertainty keep the government & the public guessing for the future moves and the markets will never gather momentum
• Real issues have not been addressed so far, and i don’t see any signs of revival in the economy with such an irrelevant approach to this crisis which will worsen with time passing
Now let’s examine what the government is doing:
• Pumping more liquidity in the banking system
• Decreasing interest rates
• Announcing sops for exporters
• Announcing increase in NREGA scheme
• Making tall statements of strong fundamentals etc…..
Now let’s see what each of the above mentioned steps would lead to:
• Putting more liquidity in the system. But Indian financial system was never cash strapped, Banks were growing very well. We have enough of money available! Now, the bank and financial institutions are becoming risk averse. Who trusts these crooked politicians? If the banks dole out loans and they turn out to be NPA’s. Manmohan and PC Would be gone by then , and the poor branch manager or the M.D. of the bank will become the scapegoat. So in as much as these measures are announced with much fanfare, the implementation is poor. No one is trusting each other. It is a ‘crisis of lack of trust and transparency in our System’. PM can increase liquidity by repo rate cut, but he cannot force the local branch manager of State Bank of India to start lending tomorrow from 9.30 AM till 5.30 P.M. Imagine, even if this was a reality. Would you and i take this loan? For what & Why? We are concerned about the uncertainty of income and job. Liquidity in the system is not the remedy, right? So clearly, government is not taking the right step as it does not know or acknowledge the problem in reality. Today, even corporates like TATA are finding it difficult to raise money. Let’s see why? TATA’s went overboard, and brought big businesses abroad for billions of dollars, and mostly, in all cash deals!! Wrong strategy? When they brought these companies, the stock markets were racing around 20000. Their stocks were really valuable. Had they done a cash and stock deal for all its acquisitions, they would have been better off even when the markets tanked. Now for the price they brought Land Rover and Jaguar, they could have bargained to buy the entire company!!! Any ways, the companies that owned these brands are fast becoming history or getting bailouts and kind of getting nationalised or filing for bankruptcy. Same is the case with Arcelor Mittal. What a deal it was. Now the question is, was it structured in the right manner?? Wait for another quarter, Iconic Ambani’s are likely to tell a similar story. Indian systemic corruption has created mammoth business houses, and the future of this natural imbalance is a foregone conclusion. It was just a coincidence that Satyam got caught. No big corporate can exist without political patronage, and this political patronage comes at a price in cash and with moral flexibility . Satyam is just the tip of the Iceberg. Each and every corporate has shady spots somewhere or the other. Difference is that they have not been caught like Satyam.
• Lowering interest rates: Still the loan port folio of financial institutions is not increasing. Reason , people believe that companies due to drop in sales going forward, and increasing inventory pile up, will dole out better discounts and so are deferring the buying decisions, till the prices drop further. The recession has taught people that, cash in hand is better than ‘Notional money’ in real estate etc…. People are pretty sure that times ahead will not be easy. Assume for a while that, even if the corporates go for taking a loan and increasing the production. Who will bring the buyers? People are in no mood for discretionary spending. All in all, lowering interest rates is also not working in isolation. The problem is totally different and not getting addressed here at all. In today’s tour economy is akin to cycling, either we are peddling or we will fall!
• Announcing Sops for exporters: Suppose, i am an exporter and i am exporting to USA, Europe and Russia. My order books have dried up as the economy is headed for trouble in these countries. Will Sops help me bring orders? Is this not an eye wash for the public? Sops will only work when orders start pouring in. This is again a misfired weapon.
• Announcing increase of funds for NREGA (National rural employment guarantee Scheme) Schemes: This scheme was already in place. We have never been able to quantify the positive impact of this scheme on poverty alleviation. Albeit , our politicians have become richer ! We all know the fake musters made and the amount eaten by the babu’s and ministers. What poor need is not money, but training to earn money consistently. It is like if you feed fish to poor; you can feed him fish a few times, better teaching him how to fish and he can earn for himself every day. How long will NREGA spend our hard earned money on feeding people? This is a misguided and misplaced scheme. What we need is a NYVTS – National Youth Vocational Training Scheme & NRSS – National Re-Skilling scheme – to re-skill and retrain people in better earning vocations and not NREGA. We must create – SEZ’s – Skilled Entrepreneur Zone in every tehsil / district to empower the rural –real India. Still 68 % of the population lives outside urban India. Mind you, urban poor are worse off than rural poor. What schemes are meant for them?
Solution to the Crisis:
Essence of this is that printing & pushing ‘Notional money’ in the system is not the solution. It is an illusionary step. Creation of money by the hands of people is the right solution. How will that happen? I believe that government (Even the US Govt.) should not have resorted to bailouts. If Lehrman Brothers collapsed, it collapsed. So what? Let all the financial institutions and auto majors be left to meet within themselves and come out with a solution. They could have formed a practical consortium to deal with the problem, shared resources and planned a better crisis management. Now each of these corporates will get a bailout package, they will go out on the rampage with cut throat Competition and crisis will aggravate, a few of the bailed out companies will eventually cease to exit. We are just giving a palliative care through bailouts. Competition and collaboration are two ways to save the economy. We need collaboration now. Today the government is patronizing inefficiency and paying the price for poor regulation as bailouts and it will cost it dearly.
Even after the bailout, i fail to understand, how 16 or 25 billion dollars will save General Motors? About a year back , GM had about 30 billion dollar as cash and it was burning billions of dollars every month and finally they fell on the knees.People are not going to buy a Chevy due to the fact that the GM motors has a government bailout plan and package! History was a witness to Enron collapse, World Comm collapse, and IT Sector bust after the boom. Well that’s in a business cycle. All that goes up comes down. If the government wanted to do well. It could definitely take some practical steps like.
• Put a moratorium on corporate , housing and other loan EMI’s for the next 3 years or part payment instead of full EMI’s for the next 2-3 years a nominal interest be added, so that even banks do not suffer loss. But public should be relieved of the burden of payments substantially and immediately
• Automobile industry should be happy as the crude oil is cheaper. What the government could do is to step in and make the cab drivers replace taxi’s older than 10 years by a bank loan for 10 years duration at reduced interest rates like 7.5 % for any duration i.e. fixed rate of interest for the entire term of the loan . The duties and other taxes should be cut by 50 % for all the taxi’s that are older than 10 years, by 75 % for vehicles that are more than 5 years to less than 10 year old. Would this not boost both the auto industry and the banks? Also, this would increase collection of the government as road tax. Which could be reduced by a good 50 % for all purchases made in the next three years? It would boost a whole lot of industries associated with Auto , fuel, Iron and steel , rubber , etc …….Make the small car ‘Nano’ and the ‘electric car & scooters’ totally duty free . Any ways, the government collections are down. At least, here it will not lose anything, but only gain as whatever taxes it can collect directly. But indirect collection of taxes will get a boost as a host of activities will increase with this push. It will lead to substantial increase in employment
• Business and Real estate : Service tax on rental be abolished , Increase the tax slab for interest payments to Rs.2 lacs, issue home loans at fixed rate of interest from 7 % till 8.5 % for any amount of time . Appoint immediately a Housing regulator to check inflated real estate cost and check the cartelization to keep the prices low. One thing that government can do is that, all buildings under construction and not sold, in those buildings, 70% of the units can be sold and remaining 30 % have to be rented only. Government must construct flats & shops for poor and low income groups for rental occupancy only. This will not only boost the demand but also keep the real estate prices low. The stamp duty and other government charges should be reduced by about 50 %. Any ways, government is not making any money due to poor or nil demand in real estate sector. 50 % taxes would be good enough at this point in time. Even the biggest real estate company by market cap, DLF has reduced the prices of their projects due to poor sales and their prices have dropped by a good 32 % in one of the Bangalore projects. Most of the real estate co’s are abandoning the projects.
• Alternative Energy: Wind power and solar power is to be immediately pursued in every house hold, town & district. This can be financed by banks and will lead to a cleaner and greener countryside and improve the economy and generation of power for households and communities
• SME: this sector is contributing to just 39 % of the manufacturing output. In developed economies, this sector contributes about 90 % of the manufacturing output. Government needs to push this sector into growth mode by setting up nodal growth centres for SME’s manned by professionals from the corporate world. Setting up incubation centres in major national & regional institutes for providing technical support and professional guidance. For detail steps , read the article that i have recently written for The Financial Times supplement – SME World
• Transport & Logistics: Approx 90 % of all the commercial vehicles sold in India is via loans. According to Deepak Sachdeva , President of the Delhi Goods Transport association , between April and December alone, close to 158000 commercial vehicles were repossessed or either surrendered due to loan defaults. This impacts the employment of drivers, helpers and host of other people who run the road side businesses dependent on the truck movements. We need to incentivise these set of people and relieve them from the loan burden with moratorium on EMI payments. Reduce tax on road permits , remove penalty for late payments of EMI for up to 2 years . Octoroi tax must be abolished immediately.
• Agriculture: The government needs to push this sector with more reforms and technical innovations considering that more than 80 % of the farms are of small size holdings less than five acres. We need to bring a sigh of relief to these farmers by host of measures
These are just a few of the steps that government can start with. Rest later
Rajendra Pratap Gupta
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