India Travel News

Window on India
October 11, 2006

News Bullets


A record FDI inflow
India is likely to attract a record Foreign Direct Investment of $ 12 billion this fiscal, as against the last year's $ 8.3 billion. The FDI in-flow of $ 2.9 billion in the first quarter this fiscal is handsome compared to $ 1.5 billion in the corresponding period from the last year. So far this year, the single largest FDI has come from the Barclays Bank of Singapore that has brought in $380 million.

Farmers' petition against Reliance SEZ dismissed
Gujarat High Court dismissed on Tuesday a farmers' petition that had challenged land acquisition by the state government for the Reliance industries' SEZ for a refinery in Jamnagar district. The Reliance Industries needed 10,000 acres of land for setting up a 27 million tonne petroleum refinery in the upcoming SEZ.

India playing generous big brother
India is set to open its market to 50 Least Developed Countries from Africa and Asia by offering a duty-free and quota-free market access. India is voluntarily doing this without expecting similar facilities in these poor countries. The idea is to help them come out of their chronic poverty and backwardness.

Hollywood stars in Pune auto-rickshaw
Hollywood star couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt enjoyed the bumpy ride on famous auto-rickshaws of Pune last week. More than that what they enjoyed was the affection and hospitality of the locals. They had come down to Pune to shoot some scenes from a film - A Mighty Heart - in which Angelina is playing the widow of journalist Daniel Pearl, who was killed by Islamist terrorists in Pakistan four years back. The couple has also adopted two orphan kids from Pune.

Dalit leader Kanshi Ram dead
Prominent Dalit leader and founder of the Bahujan Samaj Party Kanshi Ram died on Monday in Delhi after a prolonged illness. He emerged as the most influential Dalit leader after Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar on the national scene during the past two decades. Kanshi Ram organized the Dalits, the erstwhile so-called untouchable castes into a major political force and made the mainstream national political parties as also a few regional political outfits dance to his tunes.


A government Quote:
"In fact, foreign direct investment flows from India to the United Kingdom have exceeded those from the United Kingdom into India since 2004,"…Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London on Tuesday, October 10 in London.

A newspaper quote:
"The Third Front was a mirage I chased for two decades. Now, even that has vanished." … Union Urban Development minister and a long-time left-wing activist S. Jaipal Reddy in Indian Express on October 8.



Opinion

India's swelling Dollar Millionaire Club & Democracy - By Pratap Thorat

India has recorded the world's second-fastest growth (19.3%) in the number of dollar millionaire investors in 2005. This is mentioned in the 10th annual World Wealth Report released two days back by DSP Merrill Lynch and Cap Gemini. The number of dollar millionaire investors was about 87,000 in India last year and who knows, it may have crossed the 100,000 mark, by now. This growth has happened though the Indian equity market is considered by experts as without much depth.

India has done even better than Indonesia (14.7%) and Hong Kong (14.4%). However, South Korea has done better than India (a handsome 21.3% growth). The total assets of the Indian millionaires was $ 290 billion in 2005 and are expected to cross the $ 500 billion mark by 2010. The new addition to this club is mostly of young Indians. Worldwide it is considered difficult to cross the million dollar mark on your own before the age of 40 years. But many Indians seem to have done that, though their exact number is not known. That is the story of the India that is ambling on.

High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) are considered for measuring wealth for this survey. The HNWIs are people whose financial assets exceed $1 million, or roughly Rs 4.5 crore, excluding real-estate. But all the members of this HNWI club are not equal. Even they have high-brows among them. Those HNWIs, whose assets exceed $30 million are ultra-HNWIs. They are the real rich and have reasons to look down upon the middle-class millionaires.

There is no need to be in the seventh heaven, for India's story has just begun. In Asia-pacific region, Japan has 1.4 million millionaires. Their number in China is 320,000. South Korea has the same number as India - about 87,000. The US and the Europe's stories are awe-inspiring. There are a little less than 8 million millionaires around the world and a third of them are in the US alone. About $ 8 trillion, worth investing to create more wealth, are lying in Switzerland banks. This is a third of the global total and if a 10 percent return is counted, easily $ 800 billion worth wealth could be added every year. But that idle money cannot be used as it belongs to the dictators, military rulers, royalties and kick-back politicians from the third world. But then that is wealth and not capital. Capital is that part of wealth which is devoted to obtain further wealth. That is a different story.

Let us shift our focus from the dictators to the wealth creators. The millionaires change the functioning of democracy and a glaring example of that is the US. In the US, wealth buys access to power. The mean annual income of an American was $ 37,440, last year. Only one percent Americans earn over a million per year. Over 40 percent of the members of the Senate and the Congress are already millionaires, before entering the house. The American Senate and Congress are, therefore, called the Millionaires' Clubs. Plus, the Senators are paid an annual salary of $ 1,54,700.

So expensive is the election campaign in the world's greatest democracy that only wealthy dare contest. John Kerry, the Democrat candidate from the 2004 presidential contest, was himself worth over $200 million and his wife Teresa Heinz had inherited over $ 500 million from her previous marriage. Poor Hillary Clinton, the next probable presidential candidate of the Democrats, is worth $ 3.8 million.

The world over, the domed bastions of parliamentary democracy are sometimes described as millionaire clubs. In India, too, the story that has started unfolding does not appear to be different. The Rajya Sabha has already become a club of corporate bosses and the assets of the candidates declared before the Election Commission at the time of filing nominations show that India is shining brighter under the dome of the Parliament building. The assets of a young daughter of a national leader who entered Parliament a couple of months back were officially shown as Rs 45 crore, or $ 10 million. Compare this with $ 3.8 million of Hillary Clinton, wife of a retired American president, who had earned some money by writing a popular book.

A major grudge in the US is that the millionaire club ensures that the wealthy enjoy massive tax relief. The point is that India too is moving on the same path and as a result of which the number of the High Net Worth Individuals will keep growing at a rapid pace both within the Parliament and outside. And may be there would be more ultra-HNWI Indians in the next list. One more point. The common habit of the Indians, residents or non-residents, is to save a lot, amass wealth and live a modest life. They toe the line of the renowned Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, who once said: "I would like to live as a poor man with lots of money."


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