Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bringing back India’s wealth

The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K Advani today addressed the media and addressed the issue of Indian’s saving their wealth in foreign banks. Now this issue has 2 aspects, it involves fraudulent money amassed by the people and also the money which people have genuinely saved.

This issue comes in the wake of the recent announcement of the foreign banks such as the Swiss Bank that they are ready to share their investor’s information with the govt if requested. The US government has promptly reacted to this by taking the necessary steps to obtain the required information. This issue becomes even more important in view of the recent economic crisis. Mr. Advani also said that he had written to the prime minister about this but no action was taken. This issue comes in the wake of the G-20 Summit to be held in London in the coming days.

So how important is this issue? There are 2 sides to this issue. First of all, it would bring about a lot of transparency to the political system in India. The wealth amassed by the political class in these tax havens would be out. All of us speak about the wealth amassed by Mr. X or Mrs. Y in these banks. Let us know the truth. It would bring about a political renaissance in India.

The second aspect to this is that the money which people have genuinely saved can be brought back to India and can be invested in the country. The estimated wealth of the Indians in these banks ranges from $500 Billion to $1400 Billion. This is huge money and would greatly strengthen the Indian economy if invested properly.

But is this really implementable? The political babus would never allow anyone to investigate their wealth, let alone passing a bill to legalize this procedure. This is because every political party has to then revealing the skeletons in its cupboard. At the same time, no party can openly oppose this law as it would show the party in bad light.

The RTI was implemented by the UPA amidst great fanfare. It has been implemented in several situations and has brought a positive change. But it is still plagued by the fact that its failures greatly outweigh its success. The Information officers as they call are mainly ex Government Officials. In such a situation we end up in a situation where in one corrupt man is trying to investigate the cases against another corrupt man. In most cases, the person who appeals is framed with criminal charges and the matter is closed.

We certainly hope that the RTI continues to evolve into a much more effective law. We have made a good beginning and we can’t afford to lose steam mid-way. Similarly, we need to make a beginning to get back India’s wealth and invest the money wisely. It will take a lot of political will to do so and it is achievable.

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