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Commentary

Sorry, Not Ready.

Why can’t foreigners buy our debt?

We are not ready. They can only buy a tiny amount, but if we increase that amount they will buy like mad, and then one not-so-fine day, they’ll take all the money out and we’ll die. Or speculators will come in and kill the business. This is utterly ludicrous. When some take out money, others stay in. In times like this when the government is being a doofus, more people pull out than get in, but that’s how it is supposed to be, to make us act. Volatility is part of the global game. But my point is: we are being spoonfed this “not ready” business – who determines that we are? Every piece of freedom we have got has been good for us.

Why can’t we float the rupee?

Dubai already sees informal acceptance of the rupee. Iran wants a freely convertible rupee as payment for oil. Other Asian countries trade enough with us to use our currency. But we won’t let them hold it.

We are not ready. If we let them hold the rupee, they will all sell it one not-so-fine day. Again, ludicrous, because there will be a lot more participants and the benefits outweigh the risks. But that’s again not the point – we have been ready for a long time, it’s just archaic notions holding us back.

Why can’t we allow FDI in retail?

We are not ready. The flood of retail money will kill small retailers. Small retailers will only benefit, as they have from the larger retailers (non foreign owned) today. But that’s besides the point again. We are not ready?

Why can’t we open education to the private sector?

No, the private people will charge very heavily for education, which is, er…we are not ready.

Why can’t we stop the senseless parts of KYC requirements?

They prevent good (and poor) people from entering the financial system. They offer no resistance to the bad people. For instance, look at address proof? Good people find it difficult to get it – rent agreements are not allowed, landline bills (unless BSNL) are not allowed, only ration cards etc. Terrorists and money launderers meanwhile forge such stuff easily. Address proofs don’t do anything to help if there’s a situation either. There are better ways to do fraud analysis and trace customers than onerous KYC requirements. We should get rid of everything beyond, say, a PAN card or UID.

But the answer is: We are not ready.

Why can’t we allow hiring and firing at will?

The beautiful answers: Then they will fire everyone, the dirty rotten scoundrels who run companies. And run the company on love and fresh air. We are not ready.

1980s: Why can’t we have a free press?

Rajiv Gandhi: We are not ready.

The press have never been freer. It might sensationalize the silly things, it may trivialize what is important, but we will fight for it to never be shackled again. And I think we’ll all admit that this freedom has been a good thing.

I strongly disbelieve any argument of this sort. Mollycoddling has hurt our economy in invisible ways. We have utter disregard for the maturity of our people. Everyone someone says “Sorry, we are not ready”, I find it an automatic qualification to say we are ready. When all other arguments don’t work, this is the one used.

(Sorry, not ready is a book by Anil Dharkar, based on the last question above. )

And here’s another insight into why “You Can’t Handle The Truth” (meaning, you’re not ready) is abused.

  • Praveen says:

    “It might sensationalize the silly things, it may trivialize what is important”
    atleast in case of media May be what he said is true!!!!!

  • Ankur says:

    Agree with most of what you say, but aren’t some form of capital controls necessary in light of what happened during the Asian financial crisis?

  • N Quamar says:

    Our policy maker fear for any change and not let other issue rule the country.

  • DJ says:

    When they say – “we’re not ready”, what they really mean is that the govt and bureaucrats are not ready, not the people. They are not ready with the rent seeking arrangements to profit out of the changes. They are not ready because they will lose control and that terrifies them.

  • Anmol says:

    Why can’t we open education to the private sector?
    Errr…. because ‘we’ own the ‘private colleges’ which provide substandard education for donation?