Last two weeks have been very important for India from a banking perspective. Julius Baer, the Swiss Private Banking giant, completed the acquisition of Merrill Lynch in India and thus acquired official space to act as an Indian company. Standard Chartered decided to open an Indian subsidiary.
These two are very important from a national perspective. With the tightening of controls on black money by the Modi government, the chances of private wealth residing in India has increased. Hence a casual watch on the cash inflows into Julius Baer in India would help estimate a percentage of assets that have been diverted overseas to the tax havens like Mauritius, Cayman Islands and Singapore. If not the volume, at least the people and institutions involved could be ascertained.
When Raghuram Rajan announced that global banking giants needed to open Indian subsidiaries, it was with an intention to bring further accountability to the foreign banks. He lured them with government bonds. Citi and a couple of other US banks had declined the offer. It is interesting that Standard Chartered has opted in. Could it be because of its sagging fortunes elsewhere ? Probably.
But these two major happenings didn’t figure in any political discourse in a nation that has increasingly been obsessed with cows. And that represents a sorry state of political discourse. Enlightened political opposition should have had some opinion on this. P.Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh, Kapil Sibal et al, who are otherwise vociferous, have chosen to keep mum. Even the left, that has been left out of the political mainstream, has not uttered a word on these developments.
And that speaks volumes about the intellect of the opposition in India.