Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Can your vote buy money locked in the Swiss Banks?

An IIM Bangalore Professor R Vaidyanathan says in Swiss Banks “More amounts were stashed away during the Nehruvian regime.” 

The following are some excerpts from his interview with Rediff. 

“Firstly how much Indian money do you think is stashed away in the Swiss Banks? 

In 2006, the most recent Global Financial Integrity study, developing countries lost an estimated $858.6 billion (about Rs 43 lakh crore) to $1.06 trillion (abot Rs 51 lakh crore) in illicit financial outflows. Even at the lower end of the range of estimates, the volume of illicit financial flows coming out of developing countries increased at a compound rate of 18.2 percent over the five-year period analysed for the study. On average, for the five-year period of this study, Asia accounts for  approximately 50 percent of overall illicit financial flows from all developing countries. 

This report shows that the average amount stashed away from India annually during 2002-06 is $27.3 billion (about 136,466 crore). It means that during the five-year period the amount stashed away is 27.3x5=136.5 billion (about 692,328 crore). It is not that all these amounts went to Swiss banks. It has gone to different tax and secret shelters. The share of Swiss banks in dirty money being a third of the global aggregate, some $45 billion out of the 136.5 billion stashed away from India would have been hoarded in these years in Swiss banks. 

The important point is that this is only for five years. More amounts were stashed away during the Nehruvian regime. So the loot for 55 years will be several times higher. In fact, in those days the rupee commanded a better value per dollar. So fewer rupee could get more dollars. So the estimation that the Indian money stashed away may be of the order of $1.4 trillion (about Rs 71 lakh crore). 

You wrote in your column that the German foreign intelligence agency BND got names of 1,400 clients of the Liechtenstein-based LTG bank who were supposed to be suspected tax evaders. Of the 1,400, 600 were supposed to be Germans. Do you think of the remaining there will be Indians as well? Has the Indian government approached the German government for the list? 

Indian names will be there. Our tax evaders and crooks are like the omnipresent Maha Vishnu [Images] -- present in all continents and all tax havens. But our government has been lukewarm in this issue. It should have despatched immediately senior officials to get the names. 

Isn't it important to tackle the issue of domestic black money? 

It is definitely important. At least the domestic black money is used in our economy and to that extent it is productive. But the money kept in Swiss banks is neither useful to India nor does it benefit Indians. 

What role should the media play? 

The media has a very important role to play. At the moment it seems like most part of the media is more interested in the diet of an actress. Pressure by the media needs to be built up on this issue and remember that a lot of Indians don't just go to Switzerland to ski”. 

But it is absurdly and nonsense to say that “At least the domestic black money is used in our economy and to that extent it is productive.” Don’t you think so?

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