Two events and no response

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.

The great oxymoron

If you thought that Capitalism-Charity pair is the greatest oxymoron, then you are probably completely mistaken.

Today’s Strait Times reports that Standard Chartered bank has introduced a credit card for the cost conscious. Well, you got it. This is the greatest oxymoron other than this combination – The Congress (I) and Secularism.

Coming back to the credit card – this is for the cost conscious customer. And you know what, it has a tie up with the low cost airline Tiger Airways. And so you know that the card is for the cost conscious. You know Tiger Airways, right ? Where only Tigers travel ? Where you need to pay to stretch your arms and visiting the the washroom three times during a four hour flight would make you poorer by $20 ?

Here is how it is supposed to work. You get the card, pay no fees, but you need to spend $5,000 in the first year. Oh yes, you need to charge this amount to this card. And if you don’t then you need to pay $100 as a penalty.

The sum and substance is – If you don’t spend, then you pay for that. But if you spend, you don’t have to pay.

If you understand the logic of having to spend for not spending, let me know. Or the other logic – if you don’t have to spend $100 then spend $ 5,000. Great fun, right !

Don’t stop yet. There is another piece from the Straits Times. There is this other bank OCBC.  This bank has introduced a co-branded card with gas stations. You spend on petrol and you save 19.5 %.

But I have a problem. I don’t have a car or a bike like the many other Singaporeans.  So how do I save 19.5% ?

But I just learnt that you SAVE 19.5%  using credit cards while the Savings Accounts give o.1% interest.

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