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Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)
Sunday, 04 February 2018 12:00

LAYING RED CARPET TO FOREIGN CAPITAL THROUGH DOUBLESPEAK, DECEPTION AND DUPLICITY - PJ James

EVEN as the doctored statistics of official Indian agencies such as Ministry of Program Implementation and Statistics (MOPIS), Central Statistical Organization (CSO), etc. are unable to present a rosy picture of the Indian economy, financial consultancies like the Moody’s and neo-colonial institutions such as World Bank are vying with one another to position India amongst the fast developing economies in the world. For instance, by the beginning of 2018 itself, in its official report on “Doing Business” the World Bank based on Modi’s “best practices” pertaining to “ease of doing business” that includes several parameters such as labour market deregulations, liberal tax and environmental laws and a host of pro-corporate administrative and policy measures like digitization and GST has depicted India as leaping over “30 positions” to be ranked 100 among 190 countries despite being still below neighbouring Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. It is in this context that ahead of his much publicized visit to Davos and the forthcoming 2018 Indian Budget, to further appease foreign corporate financiers, Modi has initiated steps for an unprecedented inflow of FDI into retail trade, aviation, real estate and so on coupled with an accelerated disinvestment program, thereby laying red carpet for foreign corporate investors.

With the new policy announcement, MNCs can now freely enter single brand Indian retail (any business that sells goods to consumers under the same brand) through automatic route while FDI in aviation sector is leading to handing over of Air India, the so called ‘national carrier’ to foreign corporate players in the field. Ironically, when the UPA government for the first time allowed FDI in single brand retail with an “outsourcing clause” (requirement of 30 percent local sourcing), it was the BJP with Modi as Gujarat chief minister at the forefront that brought out a booklet on FDI calling it as “betrayal” and characterizing the Manmohan regime as “government of foreigners.” Now, after ascending to power, not only Modi has done the opposite, but most duplicitously has gone to the extent of even doing away with the restrictive provision for30 percent sourcing from local players (which the UPA government was compelled to ensure) that he himself has incorporated as an essential component of his star program ‘Make in India’. Along with this anti-national move, restrictions on FDI in power (electricity) exchanges, construction and real estate are also being taken away. Foreign corporate speculators or so-called portfolio investors henceforth will have unfettered freedom to have finance capital flows to Indian stock exchanges and money markets. And, for the first time in India, the Modi government has invented a new revelation that real estate business is a ‘social service’.

Henceforth, MNCs in single brand retail trade will now be able to set up own shops in India through the automatic route, that is, without government approval and free of local sourcing norms. Under the automatic route, the MNCs do not require any approval from the Reserve Bank or Government of India for staring operations in India. This route is permissible not only in retail but also in all sectors and activities specified under the consolidated FDI policy. It is probably the biggest attack on small manufacturers, millions of retailers and above all the vast majority of workers condemned to live without any job and avenues of subsistence. Interestingly, 100 percent FDI in retail is a violation of the poll promise of the BJP in the 2014 general election. And the liberalization in single brand retail, as apprehended by many well-meaning people, is going to be a prelude towards 100 percent FDI in multi-brand retail also, leading to the devastation of around 50 million unorganized retailers together with hundreds of thousands of tiny, small and medium enterprises in the country. As the latest Oxfam Study has revealed, under Modi, India has become one of the most unequal societies in the world with 73 percent of the wealth generated in India in 2017 (the same was 58 percent in 2016 and 49 percent in 2015) being mopped up by the top one percent of the super-rich. With the latest pro-corporate, pro-MNC policy announcements, the stage is set for a further intensification of this process. No political leader In India has degenerated to such a level of doublespeak as Modi: that is speaking of patriotism and people’s welfare from roof tops and most heinously betraying the country’s national and people’s interests in the same breath.

While these lines are written, accompanied by his six senior cabinet ministers and, of course, flanked by Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani and with his latest catchword ‘India Means Business’ (a slogan espoused by Mamta from Bengal to Pinarayi in Kerala), Modi has landed at the Zurich international airport to take part in the annual neoliberal global summit of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the Swiss mountain resort town of Davos attended by 70 heads of states and heads of 38 major international organizations led by IMF, World Bank and WTO. Obviously, his maiden visit (Modi is the second prime minister of India to attend the event after Deve Gowda in 1997) with the fourth largest delegation at Davos backed by the recently announced liberal FDI policy to the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2018, world’s biggest business gathering is with a well thought-out strategy of a clear ‘sell-out’ which in common parlance means attracting more foreign speculative capital to India by offering further investor-friendly measures.

Accordingly, the sell-out of India will be preceded by Modi’s welcome reception on January 23 for the WEF members composed of around 1,500 among them who will get a taste of so called Indian cuisine, culture and heritage, the burden of which also will have to be borne by hapless Indians. In his opening keynote address Modi will explain the details of various neoliberal and pro-corporate policy reforms carried out by his government in India and will try to convince the audience his commitment to transform India as world’s most attractive investment destination. Revealingly, if the opening address to the Davos Summit this time is performed by Modi representing India as the strategic junior partner of US imperialism, the closing ceremony on the fifth day is entrusted with none other than Trump, the senior imperialist partner of this global ‘fascistic alliance’.

Meanwhile, by the sidelines of the Davos gathering, the Indian delegation will have several bilateral meetings with 60 top CEOs of MNCs while Modi himself will have interaction with 120 members of “global investor community” including giants like General Motors, Royal Dutch Shell, JP Morgan, Nestle, Hitachi, IBM, etc. Along with Modi, all the 20 Indian junior partners of MNCs led by Ambani and Adani will have sessions with their global counterparts in which modalities for free cross-border inflows and outflows of capital including joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions will be worked out. Indian ministers Arun Jaitely, Suresh Prabhu, Dharmendra Pradhan, Piyush Goyal, Jitendra Singh and MJ Akbar representing leading Indian ministries are expected to extend guarantee for the respective legal and administrative requirements for the ensuing and unprecedented global integration between imperialist and comprador Indian capital. Though Modi is expected to depart Davos after two days, his senior ministers heading crucial Indian ministries and departments are all slated to stay on and exhort businesses to invest in India so that, reminiscent of what Ashok Mehta, a former deputy chairman of the Indian Planning Commission said, “mother India” can be “impregnated by the dynamic foreign capital.”

The Indian corporate media has characterized Modi’s pro-business show at Davos as an endorsement of the Hindutva regime’s clout abroad, even as the Sensex is skyrocketing to new heights to be depicted as the “best performing equity market in the Asia-Pacific.” During Modi’s first whirlwind US tour almost three years ago, the Indian cronies of imperialist capital had set up an eight-member expert panel in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion to interface with leading US corporate financiers and for drumming up US investment in India. In continuation of that, India has opened its military ports and airports to US battleships and warplanes as part of its close integration with US-led anti-China alliance in the Asia-Pacific region. In Davos, the comprador Modi regime is intending to carry forward this agenda by transforming India as a Western friendly alternative cheap labour manufacturing hub to China.

His main offer to the corporate tycoons at Davos is extremely low level of wages prevailing in India which is abysmally lower than global average and is now less than a quarter of the average wage rate in China. As already noted, Modi has laid down the background for this biggest-ever super-exploitation of Indian workers by imperialist capital through the superimposition of a whole set measures for improving the “ease of doing business” such as aggressive anti-labour and anti-environmental regulations and investor-friendly tax reforms like GST coupled with the removal of all barriers to the free entry and exit of MNCs including the offer of what is called “extra-territoriality” to them.

Meanwhile Modi’s ultra-rightist policies of the past four years have made the lives of India’s poverty-stricken workers and toilers even more desperate. Even the pre-summit report released to the press by the WEF on January 22 reveals the inhuman living conditions prevailing in India. Accordingly, the Inclusive Development Index (IDI) prepared by WEF has ranked India at the 62nd place much lower than China’s 26th position. Last year India’s IDI rank was 60 among 79 “emerging countries”. India’s position is worse than all neighbouring countries such as Nepal (22), Bangladesh (24), Sri Lanka (40) and Pakistan (47). The 2018 IDI has taken in to account “the living standards, environmental sustainability and protection of future generations from further indebtedness.” It is globally known that more than 90 percent of Indian workers are employed in the so-called informal or unorganized sector where minimum wage, labour standards and democratic rights seldom exist. When the Modi regime resorts to all measures for enhancing the “ease-of-doing-business” and raising military spending, the major portion of which is spent on weapons import from imperialist sources, all social welfare expenditures including that on food, agriculture, health and education are steeply declining such that more than 80 percent of the 1.32 billion inhabitants in India live below the subsistence level.

As reports indicate, in the coming budget too, under diktats from IMF, World Bank and WTO, sweeping cuts in social spending and subsidies are in the offing. While Modi was delivering his keynote in Davos, India is having one of the highest fuel prices in the world, with diesel price touching the record level of Rs. 64 a litre and petrol price reaching the world record of Rs. 80 per litre in Mumbai. The main reason for this unfettered skyrocketing of petroleum prices is government withdrawal from price determination such that corporate oil companies like Reliance and Essar have allowed to increase fuel prices almost 14 times during the Modi regime. His hour-long speech at Davos on a “shining India” is applicable only for the tiny superrich-corporate elite and not at all experienced by the vast majority of toiling Indians.

Obviously, to cover up this gruesome reality and to diffuse the simmering discontent of the broad masses of working and oppressed sections as well as to divert attention from the mounting social tensions, with the connivance of the ruling regime’ administrative, police and judicial apparatus, Hindutva forces are unleashed on dalits and minorities thereby whipping up the entrenched communal and caste divisions in Indian society. Hindu supremacist brahmanical ideologies and obscurantism are superimposed on educational, scientific and cultural institutions of the country. Those who are questioning this corporate-fascist offensive are branded and targeted as “anti-national” or “terrorist.” Relations with all neighbouring countries have become the worst while the entire administration in Jammu and Kashmir is in paralysis and utter lawlessness prevails throughout the state. Since the ascendancy of Modi in mid-2014, there have been more than 40 percent escalation in conflicts and more than 70 percent increase in troop casualties while casualties on the masses have gone up several times there.

Reverting back to the question of laying red carpet for MNCs and receiving FDI, contrary to the claims of Modi, the inflows of foreign capital in to India have not yet yielded any meaningful growth in employment-oriented production. While it led to the ballooning of the bubble as reflected in the inflated stock market indices adding to the wealth of corporate speculators, its repercussions in the productive sphere has been large-scale deindustrialization and de-peseantization, joblessness and environmental degradation.

As far as the Afro-Asian-Latin American countries are concerned, there are several studies on the economic consequences of FDI flows which are essentially speculative in character. In recent years, much of the FDI has been directed to buy up precious land and raw materials, natural and mineral resources, factories, stocks and disinvested public sector undertakings at throw away prices. The rapid growth of foreign direct investment (FDI) has also been attributed to this predatory plunder of the scarce resources of neo-colonially dependent countries by imperialist capital.

And the usual interpretation of FDI in academic and administrative circles as productive has also been proved incorrect as per new research. As a matter of fact, the categorization of finance capital in to industrial or productive on the one hand and portfolio investment or speculative inflow on the other is unscientific. Under corporatization, not only different types of capital exports by MNCs are interrelated and intermixed, but a major part of so called FDI actually goes into outright speculation. For instance, in its 2011 World Development Report prepared in the aftermath of the great global meltdown, even UNCTAD was forced to admit: “... FDI inflows rose significantly to some developing countries. In certain cases, the increase of FDI was not necessarily accompanied by investment in fixed assets or cross-border acquisitions. A part of this money might have entered developing host countries for the purpose of short-term capital gains. In countries where FDI inflows exceed considerably the capital expenditures of foreign affiliates, the latter may hold part of that received from their parent firms in assets other than immediate investment, for example speculative funds.”

Thus unlike the rooftop claims of Modi even international agencies do not uphold the line of demarcation between FDI and portfolio capital [or the so called foreign institutional investment (FII) in India]. And irrespective of the division FDI and FII much of the foreign capital in neo-colonial or dependent countries, as in imperialist countries, is ballooning the bubble economy and transforming the country in to a “wasteland of unemployment”. That is unlike the claims of Modi and his ideologues together with their counterparts in imperialist centres, FDI by MNCs instead of resulting in an increase in production and employment or technology transfer is leading only to an internationalization of finance capital. Today the increasing trend of FDI flows to the so called ‘emerging economies’ is not at all a healthy sign but is the symptom of crisis arising from lack of super-profit avenues in imperialist countries.

To conclude, therefore, the Modi regime’s infatuation towards FDI is going to be destructive and devastating to India and its people. The pro-corporate parliamentary opposition that ranges from the Congress to CPI (M) which pursues the same neoliberal development paradigm and upholds similar approach to FDI has no worthwhile criticism against Modi in this regard. However several manufacturers’ associations and trade organizations have come up strongly against Modi’s FDI policy. For instance, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has vehemently criticized it calling it “brutal” and has pointed out how MNCs especially in the retail trade, are going to monopolize Indian commodity market. Unless reversed, according to CAIT, irrespective of franchise or partnership root, the new single-brand FDI policy will wipe out the entire micro, small and medium businesses in the country and will lead to massive unemployment. And unorganized retailers in different parts of the country have expressed their angst and fury against Modi’s FDI affinity.

Hence it is high time on the part of the working class and democratic forces to come to the leadership of these developments based on a pro-people orientation towards ‘development including an objective evaluation of FDI in the present context. 

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