20 June 2012

The Colour of Money

In the movie 'The Color of Money' Paul Newman's character, Eddie Felson has a great line. 'It's even but it ain't settled. Let's settle it.' 

India needs a bit of Paul Newman's chutzpah. As a common person on the street- well, not so common that I'm spitting anywhere- I'm a little intrigued and a little confused. Complex economic theories are all fine study material on most days but when there's a country of over 2 billion people who count among the world's youngest work force, there are bound to be a few questions under the banner of 'This just doesn't make sense to us!' 

Fact: India's current GDP has expanded 5.3% in the first quarter of 2012. Expanded. 
Confusion: Fitch downgrades India from stable to negative.
Common Man: Does that mean I'm doing well or am I being bollocked? 

Fact: India's total debt currently stands at  $316.9 billion. 
Confusion: Who do we owe so much money to? The World Bank? Other countries? 
Common Man: How am I going to end up paying for this? And when? 

Fact: India gives $ 10 billion in aid to the Eurozone
Confusion: Where is this money coming from? Don't we need it for ourselves? 
Common Man: Why am I helping people when I myself don't have enough to eat? 

The latest headlines have raised not just money for the ailing Eurozone (I can hear my Czech friends saying gleefully: we told you it was a bad bad idea!) but also many questions in the minds of the average Indian who prays to a thousand unanswering gods before heading off to work. 

Did my country just loan 10 billion dollars to people who enjoy a better lifestyle on average than we do? 

Did my country ask my permission to distribute my money to people who don't exactly treat me with respect when I visit them? 

Does anyone wonder why it still costs 70 rupees to purchase 1 euro? Or 56 rupees to purchase 1 US dollar? Or 88 rupees to purchase 1 British pound?

Does anyone question why it takes so much money and time for Indians to obtain visas to all these countries that claim they have no money and need ours? 

If they have no money and we have plenty, how come we're still the developing world and they're the developed world? Do they have the money to turn on all the lights they've strung up on every street? 

I see, hear, read and smell all these questions on every Indian's lips, whether he's a janitor at an airport or a fat corporate cat planning his next acquisition and most especially on the lips of all those Indians in between - the me and you and all our friends who just don't understand why it still isn't settled yet.