By M.V. Kamath
IF you go to a bank and seek a loan of, say, one lakh of rupees, you don'texpect the Manager to handover the cash to you and take you out for lunch. The likelihood is that he will grill you about your liabilities and assets, the nature of your earnings, the way you spend money and why is it that you want a lakh of rupees in the first place.
And if he is satisfied with all your answers, it is just as likely that he will advise you on how to spend that one lakh of rupees loan advantageously.
In the past India has borrowed money from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank and all three of these organisations probably know more about what revenue India rakes up and how it is spent than most economists in India. That is not spying; neither is it a matter of foreigners ferreting out our secrets. Those who work for these?and similar?organisations are not agents of the CIA. They are men and women who usually have tremendous information at the tip of their fingers and can give sound advice though, like all human beings, they may occasionally trip. Working for the World Bank or the IMF or the ADB gives them an advantage. They can be more objective. That is why, in the first place, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, must have invited several of them to serve as consultants on 19 consultative committees he had set up to see how far the first three years of the Tenth Five-Year Plan have taken the country in areas like education, water resources etc. Inevitably, their presence irked some Leftist economists serving on those very panels who threatened to quit unless the ?foreigners? were thrown out. Ahluwalia has done the right thing. He has simply dissolved all the Consultative Committees. In future, advice will be sought on an individual basis. That means that the so-called ?foreigners? will be eased out, along with the Leftist economists. And it serves the latter right. But who are these foreigners. They have names like Alok Bansal, Pramath Sinha, Vipul Tuli, Gautam Kumar, Shirish Sankhe, Joydeep Sengupta, Adil Zainubhai, Arun Mehra, Uttam Dave and Sudipto Mandal. Obviously they are either India-born or Non-Resident Indians and in any event unlikely to be hostile to their mother country. Secondly, they were invited as consultants. A consultant gives advice as he sees best; he does not impose his views for the simple reason that he, by the very nature of his task, cannot. He would obviously reflect the thinking of the organisation he represents, but that is no secret.
The World Bank is not inimical to India or its aspirations. Or why should it at all give any aid to India?or to Indian states like communist-run West Bengal? If West Bengal can borrow money from the West Bank, surely the Bank has a right to know how it is spent so that when the time comes, the loan can be expeditiously recovered? Can it be a matter of pride? If that is so, one should not borrow; borrowing is a business proposition and pride does not come in the picture. The doubt has been raised that if today an outsider is taken in for consultations, tomorrow he may be taken into the government at a much higher level. And what would that do to our national pride, not to speak of security, etc? At this level of argument one shouldn'ttake anyone who has served on any basis on international bodies at any point in time.
The Prime Minister has been associated with the World Bank. Should we ask him to resign in the belief that his mind and thinking might have become contaminated by those World Bank imperialists? If one extends this kind of thinking, can we ever trust all those who at one time or other studied at the London School of Economics, Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard Business School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and all such Western educational institutions? Why should we trust them? Wouldn'tthey have been tainted with Western thoughts and Western modes of planning? Or is it the argument that surely India has great economists, completely native in their thinking, who have never crossed the seven seas and are fully aware of the economy and ethos of their native land and to seek foreign advice is to insult them? Getting a foreign education or serving in Western institutions like the World Bank does not necessarily make anyone a superior person. For all one knows, a native Indian, born and bred and who cannot flaunt a Ph.D. from the West, would probably be more aware of the needs of his fellow-countrymen and can advise how best to finance various projects. His gut reaction, in a sense would probably be infinitely more ideal and practical, for the simple reason that he represents the gut feelings of his fellowmen.
But apparently this is not the way the Left in India thinks. For the Left, the World Bank is a modern avatar of the East India Company which is out to loot the country. It is an ideological problem that is best ignored. On a strictly ideological basis one should not let any Leftist anywhere near a policy-making organisation. What can a communist advise on economics? Consider what happened to the USSR. It has been shattered. Consider what happened to China. It has come to the conclusion that the ideal for any individual is to get rich. When it started on its communist career, it was one of the poorest nations in the world. Today it has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $ 1.4 trillion, some three times that of India.
If West Bengal had a sensible non-communist government, it would probably have been a thriving state. Today it is behind most states after three decades of communist rule. Deng Xiaoping lifted some 250 million people out of poverty within one generation. Within that same period, West Bengal has taken the same percentage of people to the poverty line. India has paid heavily for its folly of taking its economic policies from foreign sources whether it be the London School of Economics or Soviet Union'sPolitburo.
We are as a nation excellent businessmen whose inner feelings for long were thwarted. We need to be freed of our Leftist intellectuals. Montek Singh Ahluwalia has done the right thing. We will take advice from whoever we feel can give workable advice, and not fall for ideological rubbish, whether of the Left or the Right. Trust Indians to know what is good or bad for them. They are sophisticated enough to know how to handle money to the greatest advantage. And they have done so for centuries. Or else how can one explain the phenomenal rise of the Ambanis and Mittals, not to speak of our latter-day industrial captains in the IT industry? Or explain the rise of native banks set up and led by men whose native genius has never been equalled, let alone surpassed, by foreigners or foreign-degree owners?