Trump would probably applaud unpredictable Modi’s economic shock-and-awe scheme

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL November 30, 2016

Modi's India_hciWe have it on good authority that the Trumps are probably highly approving of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unpredictable move to demonetize currency overnight.

We know this from Mr Trump’s brand representative in India, no less. Kalpesh Mehta, who flew into New York right after the November 8 election win to meet his client, said that he didn’t have a chance to discuss the Indian government’s controversial implementation of currency demonetization with the US president-elect, but that “his (Mr Trump’s) kids knew about it” and they called it an ‘incredibly bold move.”

And yet, whatever the Trumps think, the demonetization has caused a lot of hardship – and sometimes, in unexpected quarters. A few weeks after Mr Modi’s surprise ban on high-value currency notes, knocking out 86 per cent of the country’s currency, an extraordinary story hit the Indian newspapers.

Cash-strapped foreign tourists at Rajasthan’s famous Pushkar fair were featured turning acrobatic tricks and playing musical instruments at street corners. They were desperate, they said, to earn money to buy their tickets back to Delhi. Mr Modi’s decision to demonetise Rs 1000 and Rs 500 currency notes had left the tourists, in their words, “virtually penniless.”

The story is a good illustration of the wide-ranging consequences of demonetization at a stroke. Potential tourists anywhere in the world could postpone plans to visit India. World markets are watching to see what happens with India’s attempt to cripple the parallel economy, or black money as it is locally called.

It might go well. Then again, it might not. Things are “unpredictable”, to use one of Mr Trump’s favourite words of praise.