In what’s likely to be remembered as one of the most spectacular policy failures in recent Indian history, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to abruptly cancel high-denomination banknotes – a move meant to punish corrupt officials and criminals – instead destroyed the savings of middle- and low-income Indians and caused widespread chaos in the country’s financial system.
And now, less than a year since the ‘war on cash’ was announced, prominent former government officials are speaking out and placing the blame for the policy squarely on Modi’s shoulders, including former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan, who told the Times of India that he had cautioned the government that the short-term costs of demonetization would outweigh the long-term benefits, and suggested “alternatives” to achieve the goal of stamping out black money.
When Modi announced in November that Rs1,000 ($16) and Rs500 notes would no longer be legal tender, he suggested that corrupt officials, businessmen and criminals – popularly believed to hoard large sums of illicit cash – would be stuck with ‘worthless pieces of paper’. At the time, government officials had suggested that as much as one-third of India’s outstanding currency would be purged from the economy – as the wealthy abandoned or destroyed it, rather than admit to their hoardings – reducing central bank liabilities and creating a windfall for India’s government. Meanwhile, ordinary Indians would opt to keep more of their money in electronic deposits at their bank, helping to shore up the country’s financial system.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 4, 2017.