Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wanted to make Mumbai the global financial centres at par with Shanghai. Even before terrorists? bombs tore Mumbai apart, India'sfinancial nerve-centre was in the grip of Monsoon floods with Mumbaikars getting into knee-deep trouble.
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has said that the international investors would continue to have faith in the country and the much-touted India growth story would go on undisturbed. ?The India growth story is still intact. Investors would continue to repose faith and confidence in the Indian economy. The confidence is still there,?? Shri Chidambaram said a day after over 200 people were killed in one of the most inhuman ways.
The Finance Minister said a single event like the Mumbai blasts cannot set back economic activity all over the country or even in Mumbai for that matter. He had some numbers to quote. The Sensex did not lose much. Instead it gained about three per cent on July 12. So, it is life as usual for the Finance Minister, who feels that his growth story of eight per cent GDP growth and 10 per cent industrial growth remains in tact; no matter the grief and loneliness for over 200 bereaved families will remain unended in their lifetime. He said the Mumbai attacks would not put any pressure on the Indian rupee. ?No. Why should there be any pressure??? he replied, when asked whether the attacks would put pressure on the currency. The rupee slipped against the dollar on July 12, following deadly bomb blasts to stand at 46.21/22 per dollar touching a three-year low of 46.57 at the end of May. Even if the BBBSensex did not take a dive, there was a fear in the foreign exchange market about the possible reversal of capital flows, particularly in the portfolio investment. Shri Chidambaram put up a brave face and said that as long as the industry was strong there would be no adverse impact. ?As long as industry and manufacturing are strong there is no reason to worry.?? His confidence in the growth of the industrial sector stays even as Mumbai as also the rest of country is shaken. One is tempted to ask the Finance Minister how on earth the industry and manufacturing can remain strong if the people employed in factories are killed in dastardly acts of terror on their way to work or while getting back home. How many investors go to Srinagar or even insurgency-infested North East. The global investors do not play by emotions of a Finance Minister or the tall ambitions like that of the PM to make Mumbai as Shanghai. When the top brass meets somewhere in California or Toronto to decide the investment destinations?the most important parameter is the law and order situation and the safety of human beings. The investment follows safety of life and it is not the other way round.
The Finance Minister gave an argument that the development and economic activity is spread well across the country and is not limited to Mumbai. Well, the sad reality is that the terrorist attacks are also not limited to Mumbai; they were equally spread between the Akshardham in Gujarat and Sarojini Nagar in Delhi. Among the different reactions from the business chambers, there was only one reaction which seemed bang on target and was very honest. It was from the Secretary General of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry Bibek Debroy who admitted there would be some impact of the blasts. The Indian economy is on a strong growth path and events such as these would certainly hamper the growth process??, Debroy said. Incidentally, Debroy had shown the courage to walk out of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation when an attempt was made to influence his report about Gujrat which emerged as the top-performing state in the country. How could Rajiv Gandhi-sponsored study say such a thing. Debroy did not stick around. We all salute the people of Mumbai who have shown exemplary courage and resilience in the face of the repeated terrorist attacks. They have also been neglected in terms of basic facilities like water,sewage, city transport. But to say that the repeated attacks on the financial nerve centre of India would not impact the economy is living in a fool'sparadise!