Sunday 11 May 2014

Needed, a Trillion Dollar Special Envoy (Sunday Guardian)

The new PM will have to be as ready for the job as Churchill (above) was in 1940.
The leadership of a country ought not to get decided on the basis of a historical accident, as the experience of the past decade has shown, unless the incoming Prime Minister of India is primed and as ready for the job as Winston Spencer Churchill was in 1940, after a decade of predicting the war that made him a historical figure, India is in trouble. Execrable leadership has reduced the country to an international cautionary tale, a country where executives of alien multinationals proliferate in governmental and semi-governmental committees, each eager to boost their own career prospects by selling out this country's interests for the benefit of the entity that employs them. A Prime Minister needs to be free of pressure from outside, which means, from entities which get used by foreign governments and corporates to press policies favourable to them at the expense of those which are beneficial to the people of India.
Sadly, several so-called "Indian" companies are themselves happy to function as the water-carriers of alien entities, and such businesspersons often get used by foreign companies and countries to pressure the Government of India into doing their bidding. A Prime Minister has to be answerable only to his or her oath of office, and such reality is possible only when he is free of the toils of corporates and politicians with an agenda that is different from what the country needs. India is about six years away from being either a failed state or a country entering takeoff into superpower state. The factor which will determine whether it enters the first or the second trajectory will be the character and competence of the new Prime Minister.
Hopefully, despite Electronic Voting Machine "malfunctions" (read fraud), the presence of millions of (Aadhar-compliant) fraudulent voters on electoral lists and the absence of many more millions of genuine voters, such a person will emerge on 16 May.
Should that happen, among the choices he or she will need to make will be that of a Special Envoy for Development Diplomacy, whose task will be to generate a trillion dollars of additional foreign direct investment into India during five years. The core objective of policy in a country where 300 million citizens are desperately poor and a further, 400 million poor has to be a 15% rate of growth. Given the immense juan wealth of India, this is very doable.
Unfortunately, Jawaharlal Nehru embraced colonial structures, procedures and laws in a death-grip that is still choking much of the life out of Indian initiative and enterprise. Raising at least $300 billion through amnesty-cum-nationalisation schemes, targeting deposits held abroad by Indian citizens and their close relatives is feasible, as is the raising of a fresh $ 1 trillion investment from abroad. That is, of course, once we get a Prime Minister who inspires confidence in the international community in place of ridicule.
Such an envoy should not be a former or present official, whether these be Election Commissioners, who have never stood in even a college union contest or Comptroller and Auditor General of India, with zero knowledge of accounting or Chief Vigilance Commissioners, with no expertise in unearthing frauds. Even worse, the Central Information Commissioners, indeed the entire Right To Information machinery, is riddled with former officials, despite the very purpose of such a measure being a check against the very system that has spawned corrupt officials in their thousands.
The Special Envoy for Development Diplomacy needs to be a non-official with experience both in interacting with corporates as well as with countries. The best places to look for such investment are the Gulf Cooperation Council states, as well as East Asia, China and Japan which can together generate $550 billion in investment, with the GCC putting in $300 billion, thereby, leaving only $150 billion to be prised out of the rest of the globe. The Trillion Dollar envoy needs to have the confidence of the Prime Minister and be of Cabinet rank, so that he can attend meetings when needed, and push for measures designed to enhance the flow of FDI.
While the Union Cabinet needs to be small — else a meeting would resemble a railway platform during rush hour — there needs to be a scatter of Cabinet-rank appointees reporting direct to the PM, and given specific tasks where progress can be subjected to scrutiny and measurement. Before "Yes, we can", we need to hear and to see "Yes, we can change."

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