Forbes billionaires’ list featured the names of 36 Indian businessmen, with an accumulated worth of a staggering USD 191 billion (that is, almost 20% of what the entire Indian population earned for the same year). In fact, of these 36, three of the names also appeared in the top 20 of the global rich! The only other economy that outscored India was the United States of America with five billionaires. In fact, India is the only Asian economy to have so many billionaires in that list; and next to it is Japan with 24!! While the Indian media – mainly consisting of half /ill educated people and middlemen with negligible intelligence and analytical skills – go ga ga over the same, and the masses get carried away with excitement, taking it to be an achievement, it’s time to reveal some gruesome truth about our billionaire industrialists.
After Independence, our industrialists were given a monopolistic market to operate upon, thanks to the bureaucratic system of bribery-driven work culture we created. Over the years, the same industrialists were further helped (through more greasing of palms) by the government to amass more wealth and profits by allowing them to buy public sector products at subsidised prices – like, say, steel – while the private companies sold the finished products – like buses and tractors – in the markets at the market price. Thus, profits and potential profits and wealth of the PSUs were transferred to private sector balance sheets and PSUs were branded loss-making failures!! This was the first phase of growth for our Indian business houses – creating primarily monopolistic and fraudulent rupee billionaires.
Since the first experiment kept us a third world, third class country, the second phase of growth started post liberalisation. Gigantic – and the so-called loss making – PSUs had been built on tax payers’ money with huge infrastructure and land, and it was time to create the next generation scam in the name of opening up the economy. In this phase, the government started selling off the public sector units – in totality only – at a fraction of the price they should have commanded in the markets – because the bribes they got from the industrialists was more than that in our wildest imaginations. Once the sell-out of these companies was virtually complete and increased the wealth of our industrial houses further and made, but obviously, a few dollar billionaires, has come the latest phase!!
Having virtually run out of ways to get more bribes in a privatised world, after having sold most of the public sector wealth (or having sold out the future potential wealth of PSUs by selling away, for example, the tediously researched and located oil field scans of PSUs to private oil companies, etc.), it is actually the government of India that started the process of creating numerous global billionaires out of our existing industrialists through what TSI and B&E have termed the National Land Loot Act – the SEZ act.
One visit to Nandigram, Singur, Kalinga Nagar, Kujang and the likes, tells us the glaring tale of how a handful of companies are becoming abnormally wealthy by amassing an obscene amount of land and natural resources, that too at throw-away prices – thanks to the dacoits running this country in the garb of politicians. There, of course, is no consideration to the thousands of poor farmers and fishermen families who are getting displaced not only from their homes but from their sole source of livelihood. No wonder then that at each and every place, wherever the government is trying to nominate land, there is fierce agitation and bloodshed. As if this in itself was not enough, the Central Government is further planning to do away with the cap of 5,000 hectares on the SEZs. It is not just going to snatch the howsoever miserable existence of millions of poor, as these lands increase the wealth of our companies, it is going to create a fire in the stock markets, further resulting in more dollar inflows; and as the government is determined not to judiciously employ these dollars, it would invariably make the rupee even more uncompetitive and will drive those industries out of business who are currently thriving on the dollar-rupee cost arbitrage – creating massive unemployment, while at the same time creating more blood/scam billionaires in India.
No wonder then that in the month of August, Business Week, along with Interbrand, came out with the 100 top brands and (not so) surprisingly, not one of them was Indian. That kind of explains the story. While the Japanese, French, Swiss, Germans, Italians and the likes get beaten hands down in the billionaires’ lists by Indians, it is they who dominate the top brands lists... and of course not to forget the Americans. While they spent a hundred years competing in the markets, creating brands, investing in huge R&D, losing out to competition, fighting back again, and finally creating wealth and billionaires, Indians are there in these lists – right at the top too, albeit through creation of scams, loot and transfer of national wealth into private hands. Managing mind boggling market capitalisation (m-cap) and becoming billionaires without churning out a ‘single’ global brand or product!! That unfortunately is the story of India...which houses the most number of poverty stricken people, and will soon house the maximum number of billionaires too. After all, in this huge country, there is a lot of land and natural resource left yet to be sold away by the “merchants of death” ruling this country!
- 23 December 2007 |
- Arindam on Indian Economy