India’s embattled Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced a double whammy of abuse this week as his nation’s economic growth collapsed to its weakest since Q1 2014 and India’s Central Bank released a report on Modi’s extraordinary “demonitization” plan last year showing that 99 per cent of the high denomination banknotes cancelled last year were deposited or exchanged for new currency, crushing Modi’s lie that his contentious ‘war on cash’ would wipe out huge amounts of so-called ‘black money’.
When Modi announced in November that Rs1,000 ($16) and Rs500 notes would no longer be legal tender, he suggested that corrupt officials, businessmen and criminals — popularly believed to hoard large amounts of illicit cash — would be stuck with “worthless pieces of paper”. At the time, government officials had suggested that as much as one-third of India’s outstanding currency would be purged from the economy – as the wealthy abandoned or destroyed it, rather than admit to their hoardings – reducing central bank liabilities and creating a government windfall.
Since he unleashed his cunning plan, India’s GDP growth has slowed dramatically.
After India’s Composite PMI collapsed, India’s Q2 GDP growth slowed to 5.7% – its weakest since Q2 2014…
And now, as The FT reports, the Reserve Bank of India’s annual report on Wednesday suggested that most holders of the old currency managed to dispose of it, estimating that banned notes worth Rs15.28tn ($239bn) were returned to the bank. That amounts to 99 per cent of the Rs15.44tn of the old high-value notes that were in circulation when Mr Modi made his announcement, according to the finance ministry.
The government’s critics were quick to seize on the RBI’s announcement as evidence of the policy’s failure.
“99 per cent notes legally exchanged! Was demonetisation a scheme designed to convert black money into white?” former finance minister P Chidambaram tweeted.
Rahul Gandhi, de facto leader of the opposition Congress party, tweeted: “A colossal failure which cost innocent lives and ruined the economy. Will the PM own up?”
The bank’s figures are a political embarrassment to Mr Modi, who had appealed to the nation to endure the disruption and hardship to punish the rich and corrupt, and deprive them of their ill-gotten gains.
Many lower income Indians hard hit hard by cash shortages supported the demonetisation policy because they believed the rich were suffering more.
It appears they were suckered!