After officially acknowledging India’s historic economic downturn in 70 years, on August 23, 2019, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced a series of initiatives including further abolition of corporate taxes and many wealth transfer schemes to the superrich completely ignoring the unprecedented deprivation and destitution borne by the vast majority of common people. Till now, the govt. spokespersons have been working overtime to depict a rosy picture of the economy even manipulating data with official agencies. However, this ‘window dressing’ got exposed itself when global credit rating agencies like Moody’s Investors Service and even the Bretton Woods twin (IMF-World Bank) themselves have come forward strongly confirming a well-defined recession in India. It is in this context that, following Niti Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar’s comment on the threatening financial system and particularly in the midst of Modi’s world tour, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has reiterated her govt’s unwavering commitments to corporate capital as announced in the maiden budget along with several fresh corporate-investor friendly measures.
The package of announcements include a series of tax exemptions and tax rolling backs including withdrawal of capital gains tax and surcharges on corporate speculators-- both foreign (FPIs) and domestic-- in stock markets, infusion of an additional Rs. 70000 crore into banks enabling them to lend another Rs. 5 lakh crore to corporate sector, dilution of violations of Corporate Social responsibility as a mere civil offence, pursuance of a soft approach to tax evaders, empowering bank officials to pursue a soft approach to corporate defaulters and so on, all in essence aim at further encouragement to ‘ease of doing business’ and boosting corporate animal spirits.
While such a mega booster is imparted to the corporate billionaires and foreign speculative investors for sky-rocketing the stock indices, there is not even a mention on the ground reality of the economy or on the extent of deprivation to which vast majority of the toiling people are subjected. In fact, the whole economy has been shrinking on account of withdrawal of productive investment by both public and private sectors, and as a manifestation, post-GST tax collection itself has gone down by 10 percent. Indian rupee's biggest ever depreciation is also integral part of the all round economic collapse. And even in the productive sphere that is sustaining, on account of the informalisation and casualization of workforce unleashed by corporate capital in its mad pursuit of super exploitation, the real earnings and purchasing power of the workers are shrinking at an alarming rate, even as unemployment rate is the highest in five decades. At the same time, under the Modi regime, with more than 80 percent of the national wealth generated being gobbled up by just one percent of the most corrupt corporate class, India has become one of the most unequal countries in the world.
Meanwhile, under such pro-corporate measures as Demonetisation and GST that while sucking out the life blood of the vast majority depending on cash-based informal and unorganised sectors on the one hand, and fattened the superrich on the other, corruption has grown to such an extent making India the most corrupt country in Asia surpassing Thailand and Pakistan. While there is no dearth of anti-corruption rhetoric from rooftops, the ultra-right neoliberal policies of the corporate saffron regime has done nothing to unearth the accumulation of vast sums of black money by the ultra-wealthy sections in offshore and domestic tax havens. And a major factor behind the unprecedented liquidity crunch that the economy confronts today is the diversion of funds mobilised from various sources to intricate, tax-evading underhand deals. Along with this, intensified downsizing and rollback of the state sectors coupled with collapse of industry and agriculture and drastic reduction in social spending have led to absolute reduction in the consuming/purchasing power of the people leading to lack of ‘effective demand’. Ironically, even while the economy in general is experiencing a downturn and common people are subject to more deprivation, corporate billionaires are successful in shoring up their super-profits. For obvious reasons, it is well-nigh impossible for Sitharaman even to mention these underlying factors that led to the present economic tsunami in India with its unfolding repercussions in the days ahead.
The slew of neoliberal-instigated tax-liberalisation and wealth transfer measures intended to further replenish the corporate looters now pursued by the Modi regime that resemble a ‘mini-budget’ are quite reminiscent of the ”quantitative easing” and “rescue packages” pursued by the imperialist powers ranging from the US and EU to China following the 2008 global economic meltdown. According to estimates, for instance, immediately after the financial crash, around 25 percent of the GDP of US was channelled in to the coffers of corporate-financiers who themselves were responsible for the crisis. But the crisis is still continuing. The outcome of the booster dose now imparted by Modi.2 is also going to be the same.
As the global economic downturn following the 2008 financial breakdown is a continuing process, India’s sudden economic collapse under Modi regime, though connected with many external factors, is different in many respects. For, as highlighted by several international and Indian experts, the Indian economy had been ‘relatively immune’ from the global meltdown of 2008 and as can be guessed from several studies such as the recent one by the Economic Research Department of SBI, the Indian economic scenario was relatively better on the eve of Modi’s ascendance to power in 2014. However, as reported in the media, now apart from manipulation of data, a despicable move also is there to erase such statistics which are unpleasant to the regime from govt websites altogether, even as under Modi.2 alone Indian stock markets have experienced a whopping loss worth of more than Rs. 15 lakh crore within a span of just three months. This bursting of the bubble itself is a symptom of an extreme crisis where even the corporate cronies integrated with the saffron-fascist regime are losing faith in the economy. That is, the extent of the historic collapse of the Indian economy is incomparable with the contemporary situation elsewhere including that in the leading imperialist powers US and China which are engaged in an unprecedented protectionist tariff/trade war.
Therefore, the ongoing economic collapse is inseparably linked up with the far right shift in economic policies under Modi regime. The root cause of the crisis today is the pan-Indian extension of the Gujarat model of aggressive corporatisation that took away even namesake barriers to corporate plunder. Indian economy today is engulfed in a vicious cycle of corporatisation-stagnation trap. No amount of ‘window dressing’ as that now resorted by the regime can drag the economy out of this crisis which is bound to assume further dimensions. What requires is a fundamental and immediate reversal of the explosive growth of the most corrupt and parasitic corporate class sucking out wealth from the real economy through manifold ways while remaining at the sphere of speculation. And as the crisis intensifies, along with putting heavier and heavier burdens on the shoulders of the people, all avenues at the disposal of corporate-saffron fascism are deployed not only against workers and all oppressed including dalits, adivasis, women and minorities, but also on political opponents and dissenters. Obviously, there is no shortcut, and the only option is a political alternative capable of resisting and defeating this horrific situation.
Com James PJ