The Quint’s editor-in-chief Raghav Bahl speaks on business, politics and policies.
Budget 2020: Despite ‘Fixing’, ESOP Remains A Much-Abused Acronym - Raghav Bahl [ 8:05 ]
Budget 2020: Despite ‘Fixing’, ESOP Remains A Much-Abused Acronym
India taxes ESOPs, ie employees stock options, harshly, very harshly. Let me give you a quick history lesson.
When I founded TV18 in the early 90s, we had given generous stock options to our critical team members. In that sense, we belonged to a clutch of ESOP pioneers in India. And since we were leaders in business news, we also drilled hard into issues around entrepreneurship, taxation and union budgets.
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Budget 2020: Don’t Give Tax & Fiscal Cuts — Just Give Us ‘TRUST’ - Raghav Bahl [ 11:39 ]
Budget 2020: Don’t Give Tax & Fiscal Cuts — Just Give Us ‘TRUST’
It’s a familiar cacophony. Cut taxes. Invert the inverted duty structure. Control the fiscal deficit. Be honest about your arithmetic. Abolish equity taxes. Step up government expenditure, the fisc be damned. Bring back investment allowance. Slap inheritance taxes... And on it goes, a laundry list of standard policy tactics which could revive India’s economy.
Frankly, the time for budget quick-fixes is over. If PM Modi genuinely wants to rejuvenate, he’s got to create ‘TRUST’ for India’s private enterprise which accounts for 90% of the economy.
India’s bureaucracy has always been deeply suspicious of well-regulated markets. Which is why they love to micro-manage outcomes. But this time, their quest has become maniacal. If you create truly competitive markets, ‘super profits’ will vanish on their own — when will our policy-makers understand that?
We should have learned from Ben Bernanke, who authored TARP (Troubled Assets Reconstruction Program) and saved America’s economy in 2008.
The ‘criminalisation’ of business has now become quite outrageous.
Therefore, it has also had the most harmful impact on India’s economy.
Terrific Reforms, But Beware of ‘BABU-JAAL’ — Bureaucratic Cobwebs - Raghav Bahl [ 7:44 ]
Terrific Reforms, But Beware of ‘BABU-JAAL’ — Bureaucratic Cobwebs
For over five years, I’ve criticised ‘state creep’ on Prime Minister Modi’s watch. This tendency hit a crescendo on 5 July 2019, when the second Modi regime’s first budget was read out in parliament. While that document was riddled with state over-reach, I will remind you only of the most egregious measure: a voluntary contribution under CSR (corporate social responsibility) was converted into a criminal liability! Mercifully, it was quickly aborted, but not before it had betrayed the underlying instinct.
Inevitably, the sentiment, markets and financial indicators tanked after the Fifth July Budget. A concerned Modi tried to ‘talk up’ the economy by feting ‘wealth creators’ in his Independence Day speech, but it fell on deaf years. The markets continued to plummet.
Tune in to this podcast for the full story!
Let’s Not Waste a Good Maharashtra Political Crisis - Raghav Bahl [ 8:30 ]
Let’s Not Waste a Good Maharashtra Political Crisis
The Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress coalition in Maharashtra is perhaps the second most ‘unthinkable’ political alliance in India, next only to the most incompatible BJP-PDP coalition in Jammu & Kashmir, that ended with devastating consequences.
So, what are the lessons from this most unusual, 80-hour-long Maharashtra political fiasco?
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Dear PM Modi: Crack This Quiz & Fix the Economy - Raghav Bahl [ 8:06 ]
Dear PM Modi: Crack This Quiz & Fix the Economy
India’s economy today can be described by a four-letter word. Oh c’mon, it’s not what you are thinking… Even the sarkari (government-owned) State Bank of India says that GDP growth could fall to around four percent when the July-September number is revealed, that’s what!
And as usually happens in an acute crisis, everybody and her aunt is offering solutions. Fix this, increase that, cut here… If anything, Prime Minister Modi is getting buried under a million “miracle ideas”. But sadly, too many good fixes also become a bad thing, because only a bit of this and a bit of that gets done, and the problem never goes away.
So let’s answer a small quiz. I will throw ten options at you. All of these are critical actions required to pull India’s economy out of its current funk. At the end, I will ask you one final question. Check if you’ve really got it figured out in your head.
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Soaring Markets & Slowdown Caused by Lingering Confusion in Policy - Raghav Bahl [ 7:46 ]
Soaring Markets & Slowdown Caused by Lingering Confusion in Policy
Coal output crashes by over 20 percent. Overall, eight core sectors lose a stunning 5.2 percent year-on-year over September 2018, contracting to an 8-year low. GDP hits a 6-year low. And yet, India’s stock markets hit an all-time high!
Why, you ask?
To understand this conundrum, let’s dial back a few months, to May 2019. Everybody thought that a struggling economy would dent Prime Minister Modi’s 2014 mandate. But he shocked the whole world by improving upon his tally, crossing a breath-taking 300 seats in Lok Sabha. The markets broke into a euphoric dance of crazy expectations. Surely, he would use his vastly enhanced political capital to finally essay deep, difficult reforms to unshackle the economy, once and for all, right?
Full the full story tune in to the podcast!
Why I Call Maha, Haryana Polls ‘Juggernaut-Stoppers’: 6 Takeaways - Raghav Bahl [ 8:38 ]
Why I Call Maha, Haryana Polls ‘Juggernaut-Stoppers’: 6 Takeaways
I know that adjectives like “milestone”, “game changer” and “watershed” are frequently used after polls that throw up contrarian, unexpected results. But even adjusting for this caveat, I would call the October 2019 mini national elections a “juggernaut stopper”. Tune in to this podcast for my six takeaways from the recent state elections.
PMC Scam: Shameful to Promise Just Rs 1 Lakh Insurance to Victims - Raghav Bahl [ 7:29 ]
PMC Scam: Shameful to Promise Just Rs 1 Lakh Insurance to Victims
The PMC Bank scam was more audacious than any Bonnie and Clyde heist. A high-living father-son duo, Rakesh and Sarang Wadhawan, had 44 bank accounts in a loosely regulated outfit in Mumbai called Punjab & Maharashtra Cooperative Bank.
They used these accounts to suck out nearly Rs 6500 crore, a mind-boggling 73% of the total loan book of the ill-fated bank.
This robbery took place right under the noses of RBI and the auditors. How?
The 44 Wadhawan accounts were “masked” by 21,000 – yes, get this, twenty-one thousand – fictitious accounts, many in the names of dead depositors. Allegedly, the bank allowed overdraft draw downs, with the cash travelling via hawala (laundering) channels to Dubai.
The tainted money was “washed back” clean into PMC accounts as deposits.
While loans were given to the Wadhawans in the hidden-but-real ledgers, the fake loan accounts of 21,000 depositors were sent in the Advanced Master Indent to RBI. That’s “masking”, got it?
Now listen to the podcast for the rest of the story!
Dear FM, Here Are 3 Tax Cuts the Common People Would Welcome More - Raghav Bahl [ 7:14 ]
Dear FM, Here Are 3 Tax Cuts the Common People Would Welcome More
Finally. Finally! The Modi government has acknowledged the futility of trying to pump prime India’s GDP by ever-escalating government expenditure, which increased by an astonishing double-digit CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) over six years of impotent growth. Remember, Indian governments drive only 10 percent of our economy – worse, they do so inefficiently and bluntly.
Finally, the Modi government has acknowledged that the budget presented on 5 July 2019 was a failed, vapid policy document.
Finally, it has realised that India’s private enterprise is the most potent engine of economic growth, accounting for over 90 percent of GDP.
And finally, after six excruciating years, it has shed its “I am the government and I can fix everything” stance and adopted the mantra of “I will free your animal spirits by empowering, trusting and enriching you.”
The fiscal giveaway is an awe-inspiring 0.6 percent+ of GDP. Absolutely, it’s a generous Rs 1.45 lakh crore of additional cash created on corporate balance sheets. Optically, it’s a humongous 10 percentage points’ hack of the corporate tax rate by one swing of the axe (reminiscent of P Chidambaram’s audacious move in the “dream budget” of 1997/98 – ouch!).
Yes, I am delighted. But no, I am not ecstatic. Why? Listen to the podcast for the reasons.
India’s Best Post-Brexit Bet is the “Zombie” Commonwealth! - Raghav Bahl [ 6:48 ]
India’s Best Post-Brexit Bet is the “Zombie” Commonwealth!
As tensions mount in sadda, aapro, aamchi (ie, “our” in what the Brits would have once called “three dialects of the natives”) London, how should India respond to this flurry of will-or-won’t-Britain-do-a-Brexit?
As a nation, our feelings toward our former colonisers are complicated at best. For better and worse, the British profoundly shaped modern India, breeding insecurity and sectarianism while imparting some of their most enlightened institutions: Parliamentary democracy, an independent judiciary, rule of law, the English language (and accent), the university system, a robust free press, the civil bureaucracy and military architecture. Because of the British, we play cricket, drink tea and drive on the left side of the road.
Despite Delhi’s efforts to change colonial place names, we still visit McCluskiegunj in Jharkhand, for example, which was once home to a large Anglo-Indian community, and fly into Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun. We couldn’t erase the impact of British colonialism even if we wanted to!
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