by BA and Venkatesh Sundaram

Abstract:  The Finance Minister has announced a National Monetisation Pipeline which is a plan to allow monopoly capitalists to use the infrastructure of the country to maximize profits for themselves.  It is a new way of handing over public assets to private parties.  Loot called by any other name must be opposed.

सार: वित्त मंत्री ने एक राष्ट्रीय मुद्रीकरण पाइपलाइन की घोषणा की है जो इजारेदार पूंजीपतियों को अपने लिए अधिकतम लाभ के लिए देश के बुनियादी ढांचे का उपयोग करने की अनुमति देने की योजना है। यह सार्वजनिक संपत्ति को निजी पार्टियों को सौंपने का एक नया तरीका है। किसी अन्य नाम से बुलाई जाने वाली लूट का विरोध किया जाना चाहिए।

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The Finance Minister (FM) in August 2021 announced a new plan to create a National Monetisation Pipeline, whereby many publicly held infrastructure resources of the country would be `monetised’ by leasing to private players.  These include among other things – railways, highways, airports, and other kinds of public infrastructure.  According to the FM this will yield a huge amount, calculated at Rupees 1.6 lakh crores for the government which would be used for “further growth and development projects”.

The history of independent India is one where Public and Private Ownership has existed from 1947.  The main public ownership was of facilities and infrastructure funded by the tax-payer based on revenues generated by the hard work of the people of India.  Shortly before 1947, the big capitalists of the time came up with a “Bombay Plan” whereby the government would invest in such industries which incidentally had a long gestation period before they could generate substantial profits. These would produce goods at highly subsidised rates, like steel, heavy machinery, medicines, fertilizers and even food which were needed by the industries run by the private owners.  It was conscious Government policy that ran several of these basic industries and services into the red, and this is therefore portrayed as a failure of such industries to be profit-making or viable, and in common parlance `white elephants’.

One may or may not debate the veracity of these claims, and why this or that model was unsuccessful, but the fact of the matter is that these infrastructure facilities and industries are the property of the Indian people.  It is therefore mandatory that the people are consulted before any decision is taken on either their sale, which is the mantra of liberalisation and privatisation (and globalisation) of the recent past, or of the `monetisation’ which is being touted by the government now.

No matter what, it is impossible that a private party would enter into such an agreement unless it is profitable for them and to have rates of return on their investment which are otherwise not possible.  Furthermore, it is also likely that these private parties will approach other (publicly held) financial institutions, including nationalised banks, and `cash cows’ such as, e.g., the Life Insurance Corporation of India, or any of other sources of liquidity, which are themselves made of such monies and assets accrued over 74 years from the people of India.  If these investments were to not yield sufficient profit, they would simply be ditched, and the loans would add to the corpus of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) thereby helping to propagate the myth that public finance is also doomed to be a failure.

Whereas it is true that substantial plant and equipment are lying idle, and they can and should be made functional and productive and yield wealth and produce in real terms to improve the well-being of the people of India.  There are many creative ways in which this can and should be done and there needs to be a discussion on this.  The plan of the FM is one where a small number of monopoly capitalists will grab the opportunity and turn it into a feast of profits for themselves, and their associate companies and shareholders.  Their revenues would result only by passing on the burden to the consumer and to the common man.  Let there be no doubt that this is the scheme that is being enabled by the new plan of the FM.  The so-called National Monetisation Pipeline must be opposed tooth and nail by all.  Loot called by any other name is still loot.

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