image source : https://money.bhaskar.com It is well known that post independence, Switzerland was the most favoured destination for Indians, to hide their tax evaded funds, and proceeds of crime. Under the iron clad Swiss banking secrecy laws, the Swiss banks guaranteed that these dubious bank accounts will not be disclosed to the Indian authorities. This shady arrangement, a well thought Swiss national strategy, benefited them immensely and Switzerland became the most sought after repository for such ill gotten booties. While there was copious evidence, of billions of dollars of Indian money in Swiss bank accounts, the influential/powerful Indian ruling class, consisting of the babus/netas, to whom the money belonged, for obvious reasons, did little to compel the Swiss authorities to disclose the details of these secret bank accounts. Thus most hawala channels of tax evasion/crime money led to the Swiss banks from India. However, with the USA spearheading a global campaign against havala and tax havens, post 9/11 and a disgruntled HSBC Geneva employee stealing/leaking data on such accounts in 2007, the Indian government was forced to take a tough stand against the Swiss authorities. After years of negotiation and under pressure from the likes of G20, OECD and other international groups, Switzerland has finally agreed to share information on such accounts with India, on a real time basis, doing away with the earlier cumbersome process, where the Indian government was required to prove that the account holder was a criminal. The date of starting to share such information is yet to be announced, but it is likely to be from September 2019 onwards. This announcement may sound impressive, but it is not. India is not the only country that Switzerland has agreed to share information with. It is doing so with forty other countries. And the biggest hogwash is that information will be shared from 2018 onwards, which is sufficient warning notice, to the delinquent Indians to close down their hidden Swiss accounts. Which means that the information related to Swiss bank accounts of Indians, during the period 1947 to 2017, when hundreds of billions of dollars were squirrelled away from India, is now buried forever. How very convenient, to both, the Swiss banks that encouraged/benefitted from India’s gigantic tax evasion and also those powerful sections of Indian society, who perpetrated the tax crime, during that period.
LOADED WITH DEBT
As the banks initiate liquidation proceedings against their biggest defaulters, under the RBI diktat, to recover their lost dues, all the skeletons, so dubiously/dextrously hidden in bank cupboards (which the seniormost bankers did by manipulating their accounts), are falling out. The biggest of Indian corporates are either defaulters, or are on the verge of loan defaults and are thus desperately downsizing. Essar has already sold its oil assets to Rosneft Russia, Tata has sold off its illfated Corus Steel UK which it had acquired at a highly inflated price, Anil Ambani is looking out for buyers for an entire menu card of his assets on sale, as other big names like Bhushan Steel etc. face liquidation proceedings. It is apparent that their debt funded expansion in the last decade was mindless and due to their influence in the corridors of power, it was recklessly funded by banks. Both the lender as well as the borrower, threw prudence and caution to the winds. These corporate leaders are now sitting on huge bank loans, which they are unable to repay. The shocking part is that there are no matching assets against these gigantic loans given. CRISIL estimates that these loans have a mere 40-% asset cover, implying a 60% haircut for banks in loans recovery and a loss to that extent. This saga of reckless/fraudulent lending explains why, in the last three years of rising loan default, the growth of India has been largely funded by government spending and the private sector investment has been missing. The private sector is loaded with mountains of debt default, ruling out any fresh investment by it. Much as the government needs to desperately get the private sector into the growth game, to create genuine and sustainable market dynamism, its efforts are unlikely to succeed. If the big guns of Indian business are already struggling, defaulting and downsizing, then where is the question of their ability to invest in new projects. That’s ruled out at present. In such a scenario, with the government making it more and more easy and attractive to invest in India, the foreign investors are having a field day. It is they who are investing in India in large numbers and are reaping the growth opportunities of the present era. As India’s debt laden private sector misses the bus, it is the foreign players who will reap the benefits of the rapid growth that our economy is expected to witness. If they pumped in $62bn last year, it will be much more in the years to come`.
BOYCOTT MADE IN CHINA
The meteoric rise of military China in recent decades, is primarily due to the prosperity it earned, by becoming the world’s factory. Visit any mall in the USA and you will find that most of the products there carry the ‘Made In China’ tag. These products have been in demand, purely because they are cheap; cheap in price as well as quality. The Chinese goods have captured the Western markets to such an extent that it is as if that their entire demand for household goods is met by China. These markets have given huge profits to China, which now has foreign exchange reserves of about $4000 bn. If you compare it with India’s present forex reserves of about $400bn, you will understand the financial might of China today, which is being strategically transformed into military might. It has provided the China bully with the resources to bolster its muscle power and also its regular face offs with its numerous neighbours, with territorial ambitions to usurp territory. China has a long history of illegally occupying territories, with Tibet being just its most famous example. With a strong and nationalist Indian leadership, which has diplomatically decimated/isolated Pakistan (China’s all weather friend) in global circles, China has scaled up its belligerence towards India. It is now colonising Pakistan through the controversial CPEC project and seeks to contain India, by a twin strategy of increased skirmishes on the Pakistan border and the ongoing stand off in Bhutan. Xi, the powerful and ambitious Chinese leader also sees it as a means to consolidate his power, at the impending Communist Party elections in September. India’s real enemy today is China and not the puny Pakistan. To top it, in our trade, China enjoys an annual surplus of $50bn. That’s the extra cashflow we provide to China, ironically to fund its face offs with India. We are thus arming our own enemy against us. Buying Chinese products means providing resources to our enemy and strengthening its armoury against us. Indians need to boycott Chinese products. The tag on such products is not ‘Made in China’ but ‘Made By Enemy of India’.
A decade ago, when global corporate takeovers were touching record highs, the Indians too, joined the fray, with big-ticket acquisitions. In mega-billion dollar deals, Tata Steel acquired Corus Steel UK, Hindalco bought Novelis, JSW bought steel plants in the USA and many like the Adanis and Lanco bought coal mines abroad. These foreign acquisitions by Indian corporates were amidst great fanfare and accolades and the business newspapers excitedly announced that India had arrived on the global takeover stage. A decade later, most Indian corporates are bruised and licking their wounds, eager to find a buyer for their poorly strategised acquisitions. All big deals have gone sour and have eroded shareholder wealth, instead of building it. Tatas have sold Corus for a song, Novelis has not made money for Hindalco since a decade, JSW has written off its American investments and the Adanis are struggling to make sense out of their Australian acquisition.
It is a time to take stock and realise what went wrong, such that the Indian MNC dream proved to be a non starter. The best of Indian corporates ventured abroad, but failed. Is it that Indians are unable to manage ventures beyond the India shores? It would be wrong to say so. Merely because some acquisitions in an era failed, cannot create doubts about our world-class managerial/entrepreneurial skills. A common feature of the failed takeovers is that the timing and pricing were both disastrous. The overseas companies were acquired in boom times at peak prices, that preceded a global commodity/financial meltdown. Buying an overpriced asset only gives losses and that’s what went wrong. Moreover Indians acquired commodity companies which face merciless trade cycles, instead of buying companies with brands/technology, that can withstand downturns. The Indian groups like Tatas/Birla are large and have managed to absorb the huge losses, but their shareholders got no returns from such mega takeovers. It is time for Indian firms to cut their losses and focus on a booming India and to ensure that their future takeover strategies are not flawed, as they were a decade ago.