bull run in the residential market would have continued for three years,” said Nicholas Mak, an executive director at real estate asset manager ZACD Group.
What do you think of the decision by the Indian Government to demonetize 500 and 1000 rupee notes? Do you think it will it help in curbing black money and corruption?
Here’s an article from zero hedge, by Jayant Bhandari and I agree with most of the things he written here. Here is first article on 9th Nov.
India’s Government Makes Banknotes Worthless by Decree Overnight
As I write this in the morning of 9th November 2016, there are huge lines forming outside gold shops in India — and gold traded heavily until late into the night yesterday. Depending on who you ask, the retail price of gold has gone up between 15% and 20% within the last 10 hours.
Gold quotes in India – gold traded for as much as Rs 49,000 per 10 grams or US$ 2,294 per ounce
At some places, it was sold for as much as US$ 2,294 per ounce. That is, if you can actually find physical gold — gold inventories at stores are rapidly depleting. All of this happened well before the international price started to move up because of the election results coming out of the US.
Last night (8th November 2016), India’s government banned the use of Rs 500 (~$7.50) and Rs 1,000 ($15) banknotes. This pretty much made most currency-in-use illegal. Banks and ATMs are closed today. The government believes that doing this will help eradicate corruption and push counterfeit money out of circulation. According to the Indian government, the counterfeit money tends to come from Pakistan and helps finance terrorism.
My first instinct when I heard the news was that people would be on the streets this morning. There would be riots and the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, would be unceremoniously thrown out. Despite being a huge critic of him, I thought he at least had the spine to take bold action, however erroneous it might have been.
I am sometimes too optimistic about India and expect too much goodness from Indians. And I was wrong.
In the morning no opposition against the government was in sight. But there was some animosity detectable between people. Forgetful that they had lined up until late into the night yesterday trying to get cash out of ATMs before midnight, had fought at gas-stations to get their gas tanks filled, and had suddenly been trapped with unusable currency, people exchanged congratulations on what Modi had done.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi
What Modi had done — contrary to what I initially thought — wasn’t a bold move. It was a populist move, designed to please the 98% who do not save. While they are really driven by envy, these 98% are putting on a brave face, celebrating the alleged defeat of corruption. To them the fights of yesterday — at gas stations and elsewhere — and the loss of trust in their fellow citizens is merely collateral damage.
Fresh Avenues for Corruption Immediately Open Up
Those who find themselves stuck with high denomination bills today, must accept as little as Rs 700 in usable currency for every Rs 1000 of banned currency.
At least theoretically, people can still use the otherwise banned bills at hospitals, gas stations, pharmaceutical shops, and train stations. As one would expect in India, these places have been converted into corrupt currency-exchange shops as of today. Some well-connected people are prepaying for their medical treatment.
But for most legitimate uses, none of these organizations are accepting the otherwise banned instruments. Why should they, when they can force customers to pay in the still-legal currency and then buy the banned instruments for Rs 700 for every Rs 1000 in face value, making a neat 43% extra profit without doing anything?
In India, a country not driven by morals or reason, almost everyone will exploit an opportunity to make an extra buck, however unethical it might be. Those who look deeper, understand that corruption in public life comes from ingrained corruption in India’s society and culture. If one had to make an effort to remove corruption this is where one should start.
1,000 rupee banknotes – worth 700 rupees each today, available from the newest entrants into the money-changer business. Unfortunately, their business model is fraudulent; it sure seems a strange way to “fight corruption”.
Photo credit: Reuters
Today, there is utter chaos in the market, with only the spontaneously erupted black market available to bypass the ban — most people simply don’t have anything else but the banned currency bills. Some are booking train tickets for future rides and are subsequently canceling them — they can use the banned currency to buy the tickets and can then get legal currency back after ticket-cancellation charges. This is costing people a lot of time, but it is the only way they can stay afloat and buy food. Others are taking different measures, equally desperate.
By any sane person’s reckoning, corruption has skyrocketed for the moment. So has gold. Those who run businesses have lost whatever remnant of trust in the government they still had. In recent months several businessmen have confessed to me that they are closing down, because the state has become increasingly heavy-handed and bureaucratic. Contrary to what the World Bank and IMF are saying, India is suffering economically. Its institutions are crumbling. And India is on the path to becoming another banana republic.
Within a few days, assuming this issue is handled appropriately — which it won’t be — most people with a certain amount of banned currency will be able to deposit it at banks, although tied to withdrawal limits. The banking system will stay partly frozen. After the banks open tomorrow, I expect to see riot-like scenes outside bank branch offices for a few weeks.
Huge chaos in the Indian economy should be expected to continue — as India’s government is simply incapable of bringing liquidity back any time soon. Businessmen will waste their time dealing with this nonsensical event, instead of investing and creating wealth. India simply continues to do more and more of what makes it an uneconomical and wasteful place to invest in.
Civil servants are already finding ways around the cash shortage problem…
Cartoon by Ross
Will the Plan Succeed in Reducing Corruption?
But will this eventually lead to a reduction in corruption? Let us use the gold market as an example to understand how the Indian economy operates. Any import of gold is subject to a cumulative tax of about 11%. The retail price of gold should be around 111% of the international price. Ironically, it mostly sells for 105% of the international price. Putting it simply, any law-abiding businessman must lose this 6% differential, ensuring his bankruptcy.
In reality most of the gold entering India is brought in by smugglers. These smugglers are happy to pass on almost half of their profit to consumers, while at the same time paying bribes to the Indian army, customs officials, other bureaucrats and politicians. If one wants to run a gold business, one must use smuggled gold if one wants to be competitive.
A shop selling gold jewelry in India
Photo via thehindubusinessline
Virtually all businesses in India have to be run this way. Without paying bribes, no business has a hope of succeeding in India. Corruption is in the blood of India and is not easy to get rid of, even if by sheer luck India finds good political leaders one day.
Corruption is so omnipresent in India that you don’t really have to look for it. It is always there. What Modi is doing is merely political theater to fool the gullible. His decision to ban cash currency is actually proof that he has utterly failed to achieve any meaningful change in India.
I have yet to meet a public servant in India who does not ask for a bribe. During Modi’s reign, not only corruption has gone up, the state has become extremely heavy-handed. As what is happening today shows that the government’s anti-corruption measures themselves are ironically leading to a huge increase in corruption.
Unsuccessful Google search in India…
Cartoon by Thommy
Unfortunately, India’s degradation will not stop. Indians have become extremely nationalistic over the last two decades. They are now very easy to herd around. Under the color of nationalism they can be made to accept anything – of course, only as long as the victim is someone else. The currency issue of today affects maybe 2% of the entrepreneurial population of India, so the remaining 98% can claim higher moral ground for themselves. The reality is that without these 2%, India could rapidly become a carbon copy of Idi Amin’s Uganda.
What India needs is not a focus on the removal of corruption, but the removal of regulations and restrictions on wealth-creation. For now the state is doing exactly the opposite, as it has in the past. Most importantly, this poison of totalitarianism comes from the extremely irrational society of India — in which corruption is entrenched.
There is no escape for the Indian economy., even at $2,294 per ounce.
This the end of first post. Now the following is the second article by same guy. On Nov. 16 2016
Banks were closed the first day after the decision. What follows is the crux of what has happened over the subsequent four days.
India’s prime minister Nahendra Modi, author of the recent overnight currency ban
Today India is on the verge of a major social-political crisis, unless either the government backs off from the decision of banning the currency or some real magic happens. There is chaos in the streets and daily life is slowly but surely coming to a full halt.
What Modi did was not only heavy-handed, hugely arrogant, and of no value, it has been very badly implemented to boot — as everything in India always is — and carries the real potential of escalating and snowballing into something horrific. They could have seen that this was not going to end well by simply using primary school math.
Modi, Nationalism, and the Public School-Indoctrinated Middle Class
India today is like a cult under the influence of Narendra Modi — in which unlike in the past, not the poorest or uneducated citizens, but mostly members of the so-called educated middle class participate. Over the last two decades, people have been exposed to mass education, TV and nationalistic propaganda without being taught an iota of critical thinking skills.
In a society in which the concept of reason does not exist, this has made these people receptive to any kind of propaganda with a nationalistic or Hindutva bent. (Hindutva = fanatical Hinduism, which is rapidly metastasizing).
To aggrandize his position, Modi ordered a lot of military-hardware that India cannot afford, escalated tensions with Pakistan, and conducted what was very likely a fake surgical strike inside Pakistan. This united Indians under the flag.
Now, the demonetization of the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 banknotes was tagged with nationalism, anti-corruption, and anti-terrorism. Simple-minded, slogan-susceptible persons were hardwired to accept an erroneous causality. Those who did not go along were made to be afraid of being called pro-terrorist elements.
Those in the middle class have taken what they deem to be the higher moral ground, for they have mostly avoided suffering from the demonetization. Lacking moral instincts — which is unfortunately the case with much of Indian society, given its deep-rooted irrationality and superstitions — they cannot see or feel the pain of those who are suffering, even if that suffering stares into their faces.
But events are in motion that will likely very soon lead to these salaried members of the middle class starting to feel the pain as well. Their instinctive trust in Modi is likely within weeks of coming crashing down, not because of reasoned argument, but because they will be facing similar problems as the ones the common man is now facing.
Conversion to the New Currency
I went to convert my banned banknotes into new ones. The largest amount one can have converted is Rs 4,000 ($60), until further notice. There was a huge rush of people at the bank. Arguments were erupting, as people refused to stand in queues and the banks gave no explanation of what needed to be done. Fights were breaking out.
Amid the chaos I finally learned that there were three queues I had to go through in a sequence. I had to get a form from one counter, which I had to fill in with my name and address, my ID card details, the serial numbers of all the bills I wanted to exchange, and my cell-phone number.
At the second counter, I then had to present the completed form along with a photocopy of my ID card. I had to sign on the photocopy which an official then stamped. With my banknotes, the form and the photocopy of my ID card, I then went to the next queue to get my currency converted at a third counter. The whole process took about two hours. For most people in the busier parts of the cities, it took much longer.
Day 1 of the banks opening. Poor, desperate people, whom the government treats like slaves or perhaps insects. Somehow these people have been brainwashed into thinking they live in a free country. My granddad kept photographs of British royalty on the walls of his office until his final days, for he had realized that the British had treated him much better.
Anyone who thinks that a country which wastes two hours of every citizen’s life to convert his own $60 can ever hope to be an economic power is drinking too much Kool-Aid and cannot do primary level math. Forget any possibility of removing unaccounted for money or reducing corruption, what Modi is doing is a recipe for the destruction of whatever legitimate economy there is.
That same afternoon, I went to the post office with a friend who wanted to get his money converted. After waiting a long time there, we found out that the post office had run out of cash. Since then most ATMs have had limited amounts of cash available and banks keep running out of cash as well.
The queues have continued to grow. People start lining up late into the night waiting for banks to open and still have to go back home with no cash. What started with two hours of queuing is becoming an endless slog now.
An endless queue to convert Rs 4,000 (USD 60). Will they actually go home with their new cash?
The Problems Go Much Deeper
Half of India’s citizens do not have a bank account and around 25% do not even have an ID card. These are the country’s poorest people, who have no way of converting their money – even if they learn how to do it, which is already a nigh insurmountable hurdle. Also, those who are old, disabled or sick have no choice but to suffer, for without personally visiting a bank branch office, one cannot convert one’s banknotes.
An old disabled woman struggling to get her money converted. One has to be utterly heartless not to feel angry about the situation.
97% of the Indian economy is cash-based. With 88% of all outstanding currency no longer usable, the economy is coming to a standstill. The daily-wage laborer, who leads a hand-to-mouth existence in a country with GDP per capita of a mere $1,600, no longer has work, as his employer has no cash to pay his wages. His life is in utter chaos. He is not as smart as Modi — despite the fact that Modi has no real life experience except as a bully and perhaps in his early days as a tea-seller at a train-station. He has no clue where his life is headed from here.
These people are going hungry, and some have begun to raid food shops. People are dying for lack of treatment at hospitals. Old people are dying in the endless queues. Some are killing themselves, as they are unable to comprehend the situation and simply don’t know what to do. There are now hundreds of such stories in the media.
Small businesses are in shambles, and many will probably never recover. The Hindu wedding season has just started and people are left with unusable banknotes. Their personal and family lives are now an utter disaster.
Desperate people raiding a supermarket
Lacking moral and rational anchors, and hence compassion, members of the salaried middle class are unperturbed. Their salaries get taxed and most of the bribes they are getting end up in gold or property investments. In their minds, poor people and small businesses don’t matter. In the hypocritical culture of India, as long as the middle class is not suffering — for the time being — they prefer to take what they believe to be the higher moral ground.
Why This Problem Will Get Much Worse
Let us do a few simple numbers… What has been made illegal comprises 88% of the monetary value of all currency notes in circulation. In an economy based primarily on cash, the liquidity of cash is the lifeline of the economy. This requires that 88% of the new currency be rapidly dispersed into the market.
The Indian government has absolutely no history of being able to entertain a project of this type or magnitude ever and after the British left, India’s institutions have continued to deteriorate, so hope is not an option. If they fail to issue enough new bills, the very limited supply of Rs 100 notes will disappear within a few days.
As any rational person has a tendency to store good money while using bad money in transactions, people will hide all newly released currency as well as Rs 100 banknotes until full liquidity is restored. The rich and the well-connected have already done what was needed.
A reminder of Gresham’s law for Modi: “Bad money drives out good money.”
Those who have no need to convert their money as all their cash is already in the banking system (as is the case with the salaried middle class), which they think is making them look like a heroes in the eyes of Modi and is giving them a sense of moral superiority – they are nothing but turkeys being groomed.
Banks are giving out a mere Rs 20,000 ($300) a week at best. Their lives will suffer and for all intents and purposes, their accounts are frozen. This is Cyprus ten times over – they just haven’t realized it yet.
Whichever way one looks at the above numbers, India’s economy is going to start suffocating, within weeks, if not within days. And a serious political and social crisis will take place, which will eventually acquire a life of its own. That is when the as of yet unperturbed salaried middle class wakes up with pain.
As in any irrational system, it is not reason and morality that will have convinced them to scuttle their hypocrisy and limited vision, but the violence and pain that they themselves will suffer.
Politicians and bureaucrats of course cannot be seen queuing at the banks. Many bank branches apparently had their cash secretly replaced by the now-illegal bills before the first day of reopening. While no more than two bills of Rs 2000 each should have been collected, those better connected apparently haven’t had a problem with this and have been shown showing off packets of the new currency they have. All this cash will do nothing but end up under mattresses, as it has in the past.
Politicians with too much corrupt money (now unusable currency notes), who could not convert it beforehand, are distributing it to villagers as loans. Villagers will take the risk with the tax department, including having to hand over a large portion of it as bribes.
As I walk around, corruption is everywhere and has grown exponentially, not only in financial terms but worst of all, in terms of the humiliation and degradation Indians are suffering. And I don’t know how a humiliated, soulless person can be anything but corrupt.
In village after village people have stopped working, even if they had work, as they can now join the queues at the banks to convert other people’s banknotes for a commission. For many young people, this is a wise entrepreneurial decision, as they are making many times the money they would have otherwise made for now.
But they are being trained to make money from non-productive activities — not from wealth-creation, but from unnecessary problems created by the government. Are they being groomed for a corruption-free society? One has to be naive to respond affirmatively.
Sell your now illegal currency for a 20% discount, which young kids can then convert into legal money at the bank
Fear of the tax authorities means that the level of bribes being offered has gone up. Random people can now impersonate tax officers and collect bribes. People are in the grip of a fear psychosis. Many are emptying their bank deposit boxes, which means that crime will inevitably increase in coming days.
People are constantly worrying about what Modi’s next knee-jerk act might be and how to protect themselves against it. A police state is knocking at the doors.
A receptive environment has been created in which all kinds of rumors are taking wing. Today,, as rumors have been making the rounds that it is about to disappear. This of course creates a situation in which it will actually disappear. The same is happening with sugar. The largely irrational masses are eagerly devouring a great many random rumors.
Lesson for Modi: Never, ever destabilize a society that works through conventions rather than reason, for it has no way to return to a normal state of affairs without a huge amount of pain and violence. Simply look at neighboring countries in order to understand this.
Chronic fear is slowly overtaking the mood of Indians, particularly those who run businesses. They have not only completely lost their trust in the government, but the tax department has been raiding people’s premises to scare those who are trying to salvage what they have.
They have stopped worrying about creating value. Everyone is talking about what to do with the banned banknotes, for even if they are fully accounted for, people fear that the increasingly rapacious tax authorities will make trouble anyway.
Uncertainty has gripped the populace. Not everyone is capable of grasping the situation and dealing with it.
People are now converting whatever they can into gold, silver, and mostly for the first time into the US dollar and other foreign currencies as well, all of which are trading at huge premiums. Money is also moving out of the country. Gold has shot up to as much as $2,800 per ounce, if you can find it.
Lesson for Modi: The reason people trust Switzerland is because it has hundreds of years of history of protecting private property. Singapore has done an equally good job, but it still lags behind Switzerland, because trust requires a very, very long history of institutional honesty and integrity. India is back to level zero for now. When future generations look back, they will see the current demonetization as the worst event in the history of post-colonial India.
Finally, the new bills have actually worsened the counterfeiting problem they were supposed to solve. People do not have any experience with what the new banknotes look like. Within a mere three days, counterfeits are already in circulation. Contrary to the government’s claims, the new bills areand are made of simple paper.
A mere three days after the first release of the new banknotes, fake currency is already in circulation
Why Has the Government Miscalculated?
The most productive job Modi ever had was running a tea-shop at a railway station, which he then gave up to become a bully. He is a complete stranger to complex thought. He is simplistic in his thinking and does not understand the second-order consequences of his actions.
First he increased Hindu fanaticism, then he participated in collectivizing people using nationalism, then he created problems with Kashmir through his heavy-handedness.
He completely failed to liberalize the economy or remove corruption from public life, which is an almost impossible job. Quite ironically,, the very people who are the fountainhead of all corruption.
A simplistic mind is also arrogant. Such a mind — unable to conceive the possibility of unintended consequences — thinks all that has to be done is to issue orders and everything will fall in place. Alas, this may work when shooting innocent people in Kashmir and in other destructive ventures, but when it comes to institutionalizing social progress, a more complex and intelligent approach is needed.
All of India’s institutions have continued to deteriorate since the British have left. They are rotting away and are in shambles. India had some breathing space over the past three decades because of the free gifts of the internet and cheap telephony which it got from the West.
This has merely made Indian governments more rapacious and so-called educated Indians more arrogant. They collectively lack the capacity to improve India’s institutions after having destroyed them. Demonetization may well be the straw that will break the camel’s back by accelerating the deterioration of India’s institutions toward the point of breakdown, perhaps in weeks if not already in coming days.
Conclusion – What Can One Do?
As Indian, be a speculator – even if the government does not like it and will blame you for all ills. Try to keep as much of your money in cash, in Rs 100 notes. Rs 2,000 notes have no value when you go shopping for groceries. Keep a supply of water and dried food sufficient for a few months’ needs.
Cash is disappearing and even before that the economy was stumbling. It might take just one more small domino — more strain on liquidity — to bring about systemic problems in the economy that could bring crucial transactions, businesses and supply lines to a halt.
If systemic violence spreads, everything will be complicated further. Think of Zimbabwe. It pays to be prepared, particularly when we are ruled by zombies.
Part 3 on Nov 3 2016
When Money Dies
In next few days.of the dispatch we talked about what happened during the first two days after Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi banned Rs 500 and Rs 1000 banknotes, comprising of 88% of the monetary value of cash in circulation. In , we talked about the scenes, chaos, desperation, and massive loss of productive capacity that this ban had led to over the
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi – another finger-wagger, as can be seen in this photograph. Beware finger-wagging politicians, as we always point out. Modi now plans to property rights is alien to Modi. [PT]on large bank deposits; the State’s rapaciousness knows no bounds and evidently the mere possession of some arbitrary amount of money considered “too large” now means one is deemed a criminal a priori in India. It goes without saying that the concept of
Now, two weeks later, the situation is getting much worse, and more desperate. It is obvious that Modi single-handedly took the decision to ban the banknotes, with most people in his cabinet and virtually all in the central bank oblivious to his plan.
There is virtually no visible opposition to the enforced ban, for any politician who opposes the ban risks having his own misdeeds — and they are all corrupt — brought to the public space by Modi. A true demagogue, Modi, has already convinced the gullible, salaried middle class that anyone who opposes the ban is hiding corrupt money and is anti-national.
With every passing day, it has not only become clearer that the ban was of no use to eradicate hidden cash, but has also inflicted deep, wide and irreparable damage to the society. The economy is rapidly moving toward stagnation. The lives of literally hundreds of millions are in deep chaos.
This event may well go down in the history books as one of the worst man-made crises ever.
Cash conversion has been reduced to Rs 2000 ($30) per person. As a result people are facing humiliation and stand in queues for as much as 12 hours or more. Often repeated visits to the bank are necessary, with no guarantee that the bank will have cash available for the conversion. Old and disabled people, the 25% of India’s society without ID-cards, and women (unless they are prepared to be molested) don’t even have this chance. For those who are able join the queues, the scene has turned into a battlefield, with people fighting among themselves and getting brutalized by the police. But so far most people seem to still carry a favorable opinion of Modi, backed by cult-like “intellectual” climate created by the salaried middle class (who lack critical thinking and reasoning capability), and supported by the international media and institutions like the IMF, i.e., people who are sitting in Western cities have no clue about the realities on the ground. But all this will change as the stories of personal suffering should eventually start to dominate over the propaganda—reality does have a way of catching up. But India’s descent toward a police state is now written in concrete. Even if Modi eventually goes, a new demagogue will take his place.
Should a single person have so much power to be able to destroy the lives of almost one out of every five human beings on the planet? On this occasion it may be worth reminding ourselves that Modi also has the authority to launch nuclear bombs.
Modi suffers from worst possible type of corruption: an insatiable desire for personal glory at any cost, an extremely deep moral and spiritual corruption. He also represents the worst aspect of democracy: a demagogue who caters to an irrational populace’s cravings for self-identity and release from self-responsibility.
The government monopoly on cash economically connects 1.3 billion Indians. The perceived value of this paper currency does not comes not from any value inherent in it (it is just as irredeemable as other fiat monies), but from government edicts.
Cash is the thread that weaves relationships, transactions and commitments. For the proper functioning of society, it is absolutely crucial that people have a liquid medium of exchange, the essential lubricant to effect trade in today’s complex economy. Today, win-win transactions — except for barter, which has emerged in many parts of India — can no longer take place, for the monopolistic money instrument, India’s fiat currency, has been paralyzed by Modi.
Two millennia of progress in money have been destroyed. Rural places are increasingly falling back on barter. In a barter economy, economic calculation is no longer possible; only the most basic economic exchanges can take place. The market will have to adopt alternative media of exchange if the coincidence of wants problem is to be overcome.
Should a single person have the authority to flip a switch and bring all trade, transactions, indeed the entire economy to a halt?
As it stands, money is now dead in India – and a police state is rapidly encroaching. Both at home and abroad the only topic of conversation for Indians is the currency ban. If they are not busy planning how to escape the depredations of the tax authorities (whose minions are rapacious and will insist that people be obsequious and pay them large bribes), people exchange slogans, sound-bites and mere hopes – which seems to be the best India’s irrational society can do. Should this be all people are communicating about? Human beings were destined for higher things in life, not merely for the task of protecting themselves against the State.
What tyranny, socialism and an authoritarian order enforced from the top down mean for those who have been reduced to mere cogs
Most people — particularly the salaried middle class — still seem to have a favorable opinion of Mr. Modi. They have been indoctrinated – in India’s extremely irrational and superstitious society – to believe that this demonetization will somehow alleviate corruption and that anything but support of Modi’s actions is anti-national and unpatriotic.
This gives me pause to reflect.
What a crazy idea it is to have a State monopoly on money, particularly a money that carries no inherent value and depends on regulatory edicts. On a deeper level, it makes me reflect on why for the culture of India — which is tribalistic, nativistic, superstitious and irrational — “India” is actually an unnatural entity.
Such a society should consist of hundreds of tribes and countries, which is what “India” was before the British consolidated it. In a tribalistic and irrational society, decentralization makes life much safer and makes the market more free, as complex decisions will be taken on the local level, where they belong.
India’s institutions — not just organizations, but larger socio-political beliefs — have begun to decay and crumble after the British left, losing their underlying essence, the reason for which they had been institutionalized in the first place. This degradation is now picking up pace. They must eventually fall apart — including the nation-state of India – to adjust to the underlying culture .
Let us consider some of these institutions. Western education implanted in India has mutated. It is making individuals cogs in a big machine, all for the service of one great leader. Public education and the mass-media have become instruments of propaganda.
Complexity and the diversity of options that technology brings make an irrational thinker extremely confused, forcing him to seek sanity in ritualistic religion —hence the increase in religiosity in India and elsewhere in the region. This has happened despite the explosion in information technology.
The concept of the nation-state, when it took hold in Europe, was about the values the emergent rational and enlightened societies of Europe shared and had collectively come to believe in, at least among their elites. In India, the idea of the nation-state has morphed into a valueless thread, which binds people together through nothing but a flag and an anthem, symbols completely devoid of any values.
It has collectivized tribalistic and irrational people (an irrationality that is amply epitomized by the negative force Islam has become in the last two decades). In India and many similarly constituted countries, institutions that are not natural to their culture— the nation state, education, monetary system, etc. — must eventually face entropy, slowly at first, and then rapidly. India has now entered the rapid phase.
The death of money – amid a lack of respect for property rights (which again are a purely European concept that emerged from the intellectual revolutions of the last 800 years) – has been sudden and will very likely be catastrophic. It is a man-made disaster of gargantuan proportions. It will fundamentally change India in a very negative way, particularly if the demonetization effort succeeds, as it will have created the foundations enabling the rapid emergence of a police state.
A Rapidly Evolving Police State
After just a few years under Modi’s rule, there is no independent body left in India. Courts simply do not take a position against Modi. Not that the situation was much better earlier, mind. These days, journalists and opposing voices are increasingly stifled, while people at the fringe at least spoke their mind in the past.
For the first time, Hindus who were tolerant of intellectual differences have come to believe in Hindutava (fanatic Hindu nationalism, rapidly metastasizing as a particular mutation of nationalism).
Police now reserves the right to randomly search people’s possessions without a warrant. Those who live in India — in an economy in which 97% of all consumer transactions are in cash, most salaries are paid in cash, and most revenues are collected in cash — routinely transport and carry large amounts of cash on their person.
When policemen stop them, they often find some cash, which now ends up being confiscated and used for the Modi propaganda machine. None of this means that the confiscated cash is illegal, undocumented, or involved in tax evasion efforts. But truth has no place in propaganda.
A regular sight outside of bank branch offices, where poor desperate people laid off from work because of the monetary crisis must bear insults and physical harm from the police, all for the “greater good” and a “corruption-free” India
The fear among small businessmen and those with savings outside of the banking system, even if they are fully legitimate, is palpable. They are now deemed to be criminals and it is their job to prove themselves innocent.
They are extremely afraid of facing tax inquiries, which always involve heavy penalties and large bribes (the level of which has gone up noticeably in this police state). Whatever small focus they previously had on wealth-creation is now gone.
Historically, India has been a negative-yielding economy. Interest rates have mostly been negative in real terms. Stock market returns are negative-yielding, even before adjusting for business and jurisdictional risks. In such an environment, savers have no option but to keep their money in gold, or outside the formal economy.
Any oppression of savers forcing them to direct their money into thewill only lead to even more of their savings going into gold and escaping to foreign jurisdictions, eventually making India much less well-off. Even in the short-term, India’s economy is rapidly going into paralysis.
An old man has died in the queue at the bank. No one came to help him, due to the risk of losing their place in the queue. A large number of people have died in similar circumstances.
Corruption is Entrenched Across India
There is indeed a belief that at the very top, financial corruption has declined. I have no way to be sure of this, but I am tempted to believe it. But India’s proximal problem is with its bureaucracy and lower-level politics.
I have yet to meet a public servant who does not ask for a bribe. Simple financial corruption would have merely redistributed wealth. But the real problem with the public servant is his utter moral and spiritual corruption.
He expects citizens to grovel, a sadistic pleasure every Indian public servant enjoys in his demeaned existence. He is incapable of taking a decision or of thinking straight. It is here that the State suffocates society and wealth-creation. This is the real corruption characterizing the State.
More fundamentally, the real problem of India is not even its bureaucracy, but Indians as such. Indians will pay and take bribes when given an opportunity. They will strive to get into positions that give them the power over other people. They know exactly how others should live. The fingers of my hands exceed the number of Indians I have known who are different.
But hasn’t the way Indians view corruption changed in recent times, given that they are supporting Modi in his fight against corruption, however erroneous his policies might be?
An irrational society is also deeply hypocritical and can exist with massive cognitive dissonance. If you delve deeper into the issue, you realize that Indians do indeed want corruption to end, but with a minor exception. They want everyone to stop giving and taking bribes simultaneously and collectively.
As in any collectivist society, the individual has no value or meaning, so the individual Indian excludes himself when he wants corruption to end. He does not see how any meaningful impact on society at large might be achieved if he were to stop his own corruption. As any rational person can see, this does not add up – but in the irrational society of India it does seem to add up.
I often find myself in social conversations in which everyone talks badly about corruption in others and in the public space and makes proposals how to end it, and in the next breath, the very same people collude between themselves, engaging in corrupt practices. When I point the contradiction out to them, they simply and honestly fail to see it.
A rational personal cannot truly understand this issue, even when repeatedly told about it, as rational people suffer from a major handicap: they fail to understand the true nature of irrationality and how entrenched it can be.
In 2013, shortly ascending to India’s most powerful political post, years for the SIT commission examining the case to release its report and quite a few people still think it was simply a whitewash attempt (we are in no position to judge or opine on the matter – we merely point out that it remains disputed – PT)in the Gujarat riots case ex-post – an exercise that . It has taken many
Cartoon by Narsimha P
when he was the Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat. As a result of this, Modi was banned from entering most Western countries. Modi has no family. He left his wife soon after he married.
He does not let his 94-year-old mom stay with himself. He claims he has given up his family for the nation. In his narrow vision, he is indeed correct. While he may personally not have taken any bribes in recent years, there is no way he could have risen to his position without having made massive and horrendous moral compromises, as the massacre of Muslims to gain Hindu votes demonstrates.
Financial corruption is merely the tip of the iceberg. Those obsessed with financial corruption forget something very important. Financial corruption is the most enlightened aspect of corrupt activities, for at least it is win-lose. Ending financial corruption from the top down cannot or will not improve a society. If it could, Eritrea and North Korea would be the richest countries in the world.
What keeps India in continual penury is its irrationality, its tribalism and its superstitions, of which financial corruption is merely a visible expression. There is no easy way to make a society rational. In the past, European missionaries even tried removing babies from their parents in a desperate attempt to bring about change. This didn’t work. Making a society rational is a process that could last millennia.
For now, India is in essence becoming more corrupt, even if obvious financial corruption eventually recedes for fear of the autocrat, as has been the case in Eritrea. India is becoming rather more nationalistic, fundamentalist, tribalistic and irrational.
The cult-like status Modi enjoys in India is the result of a lack of self-responsibility among Indians, their hope that despite massive inherent contradictions, the pain that corruption imposes on Indians can be got rid of through a magic wand – without self-reflection, or without them giving up corruption themselves.
Modi’s biggest support comes from the salaried middle class, whose members are mostly unaffected by the ban, and who may even have benefited as food prices have fallen as a result of the masses of starving poor people now unable to buy. Hence the middle class can claim to occupy the moral high-ground, albeit on the back of other people’s suffering.
Protesting farmers in India. Buyers cannot buy products for they no longer have access to their own money. Unable to sell, sellers are stuck with their produce and cannot pay their debts, driving them and their creditors into bankruptcy. This is a very complex vicious cycle. Even if liquidity is eventually restored — which is unlikely — the demonetization has crippled the production system.
Depending on who you ask, even food market sales have fallen by 20% to 80%. It is too early to say if people are eating less or if they are consuming emergency stores they have kept at home; perhaps both. If farmers cannot sell their food, they cannot buy seeds for the next planting season. A vicious cycle is going to get entrenched.
Indian Express photos: Pavan Khengre
Gresham’s Law Gone Wild
In the past two weeks, the government has completely failed to reliquefy the monetary system. With 88% of outstanding currency now illegal, people are rushing to convert the banned currency they hold into Rs 100 or lower denomination banknotes. Once these or the newly printed banknotes end up with financially strong persons, they straight-away go under the mattress.
The result is that the remaining 12% of the monetary value represented by banknotes that are still legal is rapidly going out of circulation, and so is most of the newly issued currency. Markets are empty. This means cash is not trickling down. The poorest 50% of India’s population, who have no reserves, are the worst affected and are going hungry.
century British financier Thomas Gresham famously explained in a letter to Queen Elizabeth upon her accession to the throne that “good and bad coin cannot circulate together” and explained that due to the coin debasements practiced by her predecessors Henry VIII and Edward VI, “all your fine gold was convayed [sic] out of this your realm”.
Ironically, the banned Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes are today the most used currency. Those who have these banknotes and are afraid of going to the bank, mostly because they are worried about unnecessary problems from the rapacious and extremely corrupt tax department, force their workers and suppliers to accept the banned notes.
In the local market, if you want to buy gold or silver, you must pay in the banned banknotes — ironically the sellers to do not want to accept official legal tender. The banned notes, when used in large quantities, are circulating at 80% or less of their face value. Mafias have spontaneously emerged around the country. They ensure that these banknotes are deposited across hundreds of millions of accounts. The mafia makes a neat 25% profit.
The mafia is also providing special favors to certain politicians by converting their ill-gotten money for no commission. Who thinks this will reduce corruption?
Many workers from factories and shops, even if they have not yet been thrown out of work for lack of demand or due to the cash-crunch affecting their employer, have found a very lucrative profession. They now work for the money-converting mafia. This system is already fully in place a mere two weeks after the announcement of the ban.
The underground system is rapidly distributing the banned currency notes across a large number of people who then deposit them. This market is so liquid and easily accessible, that for all intents and purposes there is no way that someone with the banned notes cannot exchange them, albeit at a loss. So much for Modi’s claim that those with large amounts of undeclared money won’t be able to convert or deposit it.
But this will get much worse. When all this is over, hundreds of thousands of small-time bullies trained by the mafia will have made a small fortune. They will have also have found out who the rich people with cash are. A social scientist will conclude that this segment of society will be extremely corrupt and criminal. These people will have gotten a taste for easy money, in contrast to patient and laborious wealth-creation.
Moral Dilemmas Galore
Poor people have traditionally never systematically robbed shops in India. Out of hunger, they are experimenting with this for the first time. They are learning that when a mob robs, the police disappears. Social relations have a taken a very serious hit, fragmenting society. Society stands hugely divided, except in terms of the thread that connects them to Modi, the autocrat.
Modi, the snake charmer?
Cartoon by Chappatte
What keeps transactions in any society going is liquidity in the money-markets. Given that most people are stuck with banned currency, they are telling anyone they owe money to that they will only make payment in form of the banned notes, which now trade at a discount.
This massive moral dilemma has come to appear because people found themselves stranded with banned notes overnight, and want to avoid the 20% hit in value that they will have to take by converting them through the mafia.
Imagine someone who has collected ten million rupees in cash, facing the ban a day before he had to return the money to someone he borrowed from. What is he likely to do? Force his creditor to accept these banned notes, or bear the loss of 20%, which he might not have the capacity to absorb?
Spouses are fighting, as they have suddenly become aware that their significant other has been hiding cash for a rainy day. Poor people are almost invariably getting paid in banned notes, which requires them to line up in queues the next day to convert what they received, wasting at least 50% of their productivity – assuming they have a job.
There are moral dilemmas galore. But this had to happen in a society run by rulers who have absolutely no sense of morals, reason, not to mention respect for private property.
Money deposited in the banks is mostly frozen, something that people are not yet paying much attention to, for all their focus is on getting rid of the banned cash. The problem of frozen bank accounts will surface once the current conversion stops by the end of this year. That is when the salaried middle class, which mostly supports Modi, will finally wake up.
It is also clear that Modi has to take more and more increasingly repressive steps to keep people from taking protective measures. As noted above, India will rapidly become a police state.
The worst sufferers are poor people, whose ownership of currency was neither unaccounted for nor corrupt. Not being street-smart and not understanding how banks work, as they are often bullied by standoffish bank officers, they are stuck with the old currency, clueless as to what to do.
They are the silent 25% to 50% of the India population. They cannot even participate in the money-converting mafia, because they don’t understand many of the things that look quite simple to members of the middle class.
Many tourists have found themselves stranded without money in India as well. Video by mint.
India faces a highly uncertain future. A vicious cycle has been set into motion by Modi and it will not end well. Unpredictable problems and unintended consequences are bound to surface incessantly. If Modi comes under sufficient pressure, he could easily go to war with nuclear-armed Pakistan
Modi, in his permament search for personal glorification could easily impose a state of emergency or martial law. This is in fact extremely likely, perhaps even inevitable, for the so-called intellectuals will beg for it.
As we have said previously: this will go down in the history books as one of the most naïve, least thought through policy decisions ever, a massive man-made disaster.