In keeping with his reputation as a knowledgeable economist and hard hitting partisan, Subrahamanian Swamy provided an optimistic view of India’s future, but called for reforms in U.S.-India business relations.
U.S. multinational companies have an upper hand when conducting business with India, he said during an address on Aug. 24 at the Ashiyana Restaurant on Jimmy Carter Blvd., because they can borrow capital at 3 percent to invest in India and then benefit from cheap labor.
“On the other hand, India’s own smaller retail traders face staggering 12 percent interest rates within India rendering them incapable of competition with the multinational corporations from overseas,” he told the more than 150 attendees at the dinner organized by the Global Indian Business Council (GIBC).
He then skewered U.S. immigration practices by saying that “when it comes to allowing the Indian construction companies to compete and borrow capital in the U.S. market by bringing with them their own lower-paid worker force from India, the U.S. immigration officers balk at the thought of cheap labor entering from India.”
Dr. Swamy complimented U.S. companies especially those in the electronics and communications fields, however, for their ability to innovate and criticized India’s Soviet-style development policies in place in India through the 1970s and 80s.
His reputation as a severe critic of Indira Gandhi’s rule as prime minister and the socialist economic policies of the Indian National Congress Party was well-known by attendees at the dinner.
Nagesh Singh, the Atlanta-based Indian consul general for the Southeast, was one of several attendees who introduced Dr. Swamy.
“Since the time I was in university, I have admired you for all the qualities mentioned by my predecessors,” he said. “But what I admired you most for is that you give it as good as you get.”
As a former president of the Janata Party, which merged in 2013 with the Bharatiya Jana Singh Party to form the currently ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Dr. Swamy was at odds with the National Congress Party even to the extent of fleeing to the United States to escape the “emergency” decrees of Indira Gandhi’s government.
Dr. Swamy based his optimism for India’s future on its “demographic dividend” with an average age of 26, he said, in comparison with over 40 in Europe and Japan and 37 in the U.S.
“The challenge for India thus is to educate the young population and inculcate risk-taking innovations and entrepreneurship in them,” he said adding that both the U.S. and India benefit from democracies that share open, transparent structures that are essential for innovation.
Although aligned with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he argued for abolishing India’s current income tax. Any annual loss in revenue from income-tax cuts, he said, could be retrieved by auctioning off communication spectrum and coal mining rights.
Ill-gotten gains should be retrieved from offshore accounts in as many as 70 countries, he suggested through an anti-corruption campaign of which he has been a supporter for years.
The dinner was hosted by the Global Indian Business Council that seeks to facilitate business with India and help U.S. and other foreign companies deal with Indian rules and regulations.
According to Dhiru Shah, its president elect, the GIBC has opened its first full-fledged office in Ahmedabad, India, the largest city in the state of Gujurat where Mr. Modi was chief minister from 2001-14. The organization also is in the process of opening an office in New Delhi.
Among the sponsors of the dinner were Ravi Chander, CEO of Sofpath-Systems Atlanta; Dr. Ravi Sarma, a medical doctor with Suburban Hematology-Oncology Associates; Nagesh Kassam, an information technology engineer and Vinay Bopana, a software engineer and volunteer at the Global Hindu Heritage Foundation.