Calcutta Notebook


Modi Government is 'honest'. But this honesty has become a curse for the people because the government revenues are ‘honestly’ being used for consumption instead for investment. Wrong policies are being implemented ‘honestly’. It is like the homemaker honestly feeding best of pizza to the children. She brought the best of flour and tomatoes to make the pizza. This honesty is leading to bad health of the children. It would be better if she had bought wheat flour of somewhat lower quality and fed healthy dal and roti instead.

The UPA Ministers and senior officials were corrupt. They would take bribes and look the other way on non-compliances of the laws. Say, an industrialist was required to install a pollution control unit costing Rs 5 crore. It was possible to give a briber of Rs 5 lac every year to the minister and continue to run the factory without the pollution control unit. The industrialist would have to pay interest of Rs 70 lac per year; and electricity and labour of like amount to run the pollution control unit. He saved a total of Rs 140 lac per year by paying a bribe of Rs 5 lac. This led to reduction in his cost of production. He made good profit because his cost of production was less. He invested in new factories. He was producing the goods at a low price hence the demand for his produce was good. He was making good profits by selling these goods and had the money to invest in a new factory. The economy looked up because of the corruption.

The minister had lots of monies coming from the thousands of industrial units. He invested the bribe money in real estate. This writer knows of a Chief Minister, who made large numbers of partnerships with the builders. The builder got easy access to money and was able to complete the building soon. Corruption was working as a lubricant in two ways. It was leading to a lower cost of production for the industrialist. It was providing large amounts of investments both in new factories and in real estate howsoever unholy it may be.

Modi Government has put an end to such corruption at high places. As a result the industrialist has to now invest in establishing the pollution centre plant. He is also paying more taxes than previously because the tax collector has also become relatively honest. This has led to an increase in the cost of production. The minister is also not getting grease money and not making partnerships with the builders. The builder is not getting a steady stream of black money. He is not able to complete his project. Thus real estate market is down. The money that was previously flowing into the pockets of the minister is now flowing into the revenues of the Government.

The impact of this ‘honesty’ depends upon the use of the government revenues. The government could use the money to make highways, improved distribution of electricity, and to introduce e-gateway for tax collection. The increase in cost of production for the industrialist due to the installation of pollution control unit and stricter tax compliance would then be compensated by government investment. The cost of transport will be reduced from the making of highways. The cost of electricity will be reduced by improvement in electricity distribution system. The cost of tax compliance will be reduced by working through the e-gateway.

However, the economy would do much worse if the revenues were used for increased government consumption such as paying huge salaries to government servants and pensioners. In this case, the industrialist would be doubly hit. The increase in cost of production due to the installation of pollution control unit and stricter tax compliance would then not be compensated by reduced cost of production by the construction of improved highways. Result will be loss of profit and reduced investments by the industrialist. The flow of black money into the real estate market would also be less.

The underlying issue is: Honesty for whom? The purpose of honesty is to provide relief to the common man, or to provide more salaries to government servants? What is the purpose of the economy? If the purpose of the economy is to provide relief to the common man then government revenues should be used for investment. If the purpose of the economy is to provide relief to the government servants then government revenues should be used for paying higher salaries to them. The conduct of the Modi Government is clearly to provide increased consumption to the government servants. The implementation of one rank one pension and seventh pay commission is leading to increased consumption. The capital expenditures of the central government are showing a declining trend. Modi Government is honestly sucking out the incomes of the 125 crore people of the country to provide increased benefits to the government servants and pensioners. This Government is "of the government servants, by the government servants, for the government servants." The "people" are haplessly being squeezed in this gigantic machine of 'honesty'.

The bottom line is that honesty is good if the direction is good. Of what use is a driver who honestly takes the passenger to Kolkata when the destination was Mumbai?

The Government has announced a deadline of September 30 for the businessmen to disclose their black money. The Government will aggressively pursue the defaulters thereafter. This will only make things worse. Businessmen will spend more energy in saving themselves from the noose of the taxman than in making investment plans. Modi must first redirect the revenues into productive areas. Then only honesty will be beneficial for the people

Vol. 49, No.7, Aug 21 - 27, 2016