Sunday, June 19, 2016

Goodbye Dr. Raghuram Rajan

Once upon a time there was a great manager in a great organisation who did wonderfully well. He was there on the basis of his competence and past track record. He had many great predictions to his credit and was a person respected for his knowledge and competence in his subject.

His boss though was a typical type A personality, rags to riches, rose to the top of the corporation, almost uneducated, but a man with amazing statecraft and could not bear the idea of an individual a many times more intelligent - reporting to him. This manager had the confidence to call spade a spade, could take all great actions in the interest of the corporation, was loved by all the customers and vendors of the corporation and also by all his colleagues.

But the boss, delusional and self-consumed in his hubris wouldn’t have any manager in his corporation who could look up in the Boss’s eyes, take rational decision, and challenge the usual.

The Manager quit. The Boss was happy. The corporation suffered. And it was business as usual.

While this is a story (with minor variations) of almost all corporations around the world but, If You haven’t been able to figure out by now what I am talking about/writing about at the expense of my sunday afternoon glass of Chardonnay you might as well close the browser.
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I was having an idyllic drink with my dear friend Sundeep Sahni last Sunday on the 12th June and were discussing the usual. A banter about the Brexit, Raghuram Rajan’s term, the state of the economy and the stress in the global markets that’s still hidden from the eye of the common man. Sundeep was so sure that Rajan would get a second term. Sundeep’s argument was:

  • Rajan is too good and intelligent a guy to be consumed by petty politics
  • India needs him
  • He has brought in fiscal discipline
  • He has exposed crony capitalism
  • Forex reserves are at a life time high under his stewardship
  • India’s respect as a meritocracy driven nation is highest in the international finance and business community
  • And he can call spade a spade
My argument was:

Calling spade a spade is the biggest problem
Yesterday Sundeep called me and said – ‘My God You were right’

Modi would have never allowed Rajan to stay on and neither would Rajan have stayed on - and it has been so evident in the last 2 months.

Anyone reading this piece is educated enough to realise and acknowledge that…
  • Subramaniam Swamy had no guts to raise an issue without the tacit permission from the top
  • He is a drama master for the Government
  • When the contents of our deep freezers have to be ratified by the religious zealots of the establishment, how could a man be allowed to take decisions on the interest rates and fiscal policies of the nation (no matter how good and beneficial they were)
  • Rajan created a system that exposed the severe fault lines in the banking system. A system that was definitely used, it is believed, to siphon off over 100 billion dollars.
It’s a shame that Mallaya is being trolled beyond imagination because he defaulted on a billion dollars in business losses. Afterall everyone took a risk - the businessman and the lender as well. No one has raised a question on the massive debts that are lurking in the banking system. And this is what we know of. Mallaya’s only real fault – he kept walking around and getting photographed with arm candies by his side when the employees of Kingfisher were in dire straits.

Mallaya ran a loss making airline and banks kept funding it without adequate underlying security/collateral. And if they did, why the fuss now if he isn’t able to repay.
Try raising a small loan from a nationalised bank. They would want a collateral for a collateral. There is no way in hell that you would be able to default.

And Mallaya’s ‘Kingfisher’ brand was taken-in as collateral to the tune of almost half a billion dollars by State Bank Of India. Did they dream of rechristening State Bank India to Kingfisher Bank of India in-case Mallaya defaulted or did they plan to co brand Kingfisher with SBI on T shirts and souvenirs and turn it into a multi-billion dollar enterprise?

A guy like Rajan was dangerous. Utterly dangerous to this caucus. And he had to be removed.

So a nationwide drama was created to embarrass him and raise questions on his integrity and his patriotism. My God – Swamy called him an agent of the American Corporations or CIA.

Any self-respecting, educated, subject knowledge expert doesn’t have time for all this bullshit. For he/she knows that the corrupt system doesn’t deserve him/her. Remember the protagonists in Ayn Rand novels.

And then….

Rajan knew better as well.

He could see that the world is on a precipice of a serious financial meltdown. I have repeatedly said in my previous pieces that 1929 or 2008 would look like a walk in the park. When that happens and when the big bubble bursts no one knows. It could be 6 months or 6 years. But whenever it happens it will be far more painful than Sep 2008

And obviously Rajan wanted to leave on a high. He did what he did and did it beautifully. Only people with innate knowledge of economics would agree that controlling inflation by a few hundred basis points is far more important than a few hundred basis points of growth in GDP. And he did get a grip on inflation.

Rajan could foresee that rupee’s sharp decline is just round the corner and the cascading effect of global issues on Indian canvas of finance, growth and banking would have been huge and seriously difficult to manage.

And in the face of such degenerate pettyism by the so called patriots why would have Rajan sacrificed the comfort and respect of being a top academic on this planet for the corruption stained corridors of power in the North Block.

Lets see 'NOW' India achieve 10% growth in GDP and a strong Rupee – now that Rajan will be history soon.