Recently, things have been very depressing on national television with all the talk about corruption in every sphere of life in India. And, the fact that Indians have stashed more black money in offshore accounts than the nationals of the next three countries combined! After watching such stories, if you cross a busy intersection in any big city in India, and watch three year old kids begging, you wonder why people steal and what they hope to achieve from it.
So, I decided to do some simple math, because, that is how engineers do their thinking. Let us say that you want to spend a pretty decent lifestyle in India, or any country for that matter. And you have a family of four. Let us say that you spend a lakh rupees (about two and a half thousand dollars) per day on each person in your family. And, everyone lives to be hundred. Then, the amount of money you really need, to lead this extremely lavish lifestyle, would be, about three hundred and twenty five million US dollars (about 1463 crore rupees), at today's exchange rate. And mind you, that would lead to an extremely lavish lifestyle, that most of us cannot even dream of. I doubt if you would be able to spend all that money, even if you wanted to. So, what do most black billionaires do with their money? Is it merely kleptomania all these people are suffering from?
One argument is that the money gives them power over other people. If you are spending a lakh rupees on yourself every day, you would have a lot of power. So, why would you need more than that? The other argument is that you want to save for your descendants. Then, we have to get into generations and how many generations do you really expect your dynasty to last. Even the mighty Moghuls did not cross ten! So, what use is something that does not serve you any purpose, and does not serve any purpose for the people you really care about? So, such individuals are probably like squirrels, they find a nut, steal it, then hide it somewhere, never to find it again.
That brought me to another interesting line of thought. What happens to the money that someone stashes, say in a Swiss bank account. What does the bank do with it? Well, it probably invests it in some place where it gets a good return on investment. In today's global economy, the rage is to invest in countries like India and China. So, some Indian's black money is probably getting invested back in India in building roads, resorts, hospitals and the like. Not bad, really. Except that now, the roads and the hospitals are owned by that individual, who is extremely rich. But, he probably cannot step out on the roads without an army of bodyguards, cannot go to the resort and enjoy it like everyone else, but uses the hospital pretty often because of all the health problems that come from constantly dodging a lot of bullets. That sounds like a pretty miserable life. After spending a lakh a day on yourself, every single day of your life.
So, I console myself by thinking that corruption will probably get fixed in the long term by itself. Money, does not mean anything when it is sitting in a bank account. Only when it is translated into a real asset, does it mean anything. And so, there is no point in tracking all the people that stole money and stashed it in foreign accounts. The trick is in encouraging them to bring it back and invest it in India, even if it gives them the ownership rights to all the roads, bridges and hospitals in the country. It will generate a lot of employment, and make people prosperous.
Babur once owned all of Hindustan. Well, almost. Do we even know where his family is today? So, let us get the new Moghuls to invest in India. I think it will work out in the end.