ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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After-Hours Deals

After-Hours Deals EVEN the ever-reliable World Bank occasionally lets the government of India down. As late as in the second week of December, the minister of state for finance laid on the floor of parliament a well-laundered answer to an MP's question on the size of the country's total foreign debt. The minister's reply furnished an estimate of outstanding debt as on September 30, 1991, which carefully excluded short- term suppliers' credits, drawings from the International Monetary Fund and the repatriable foreign currency deposits of non-resident Indians lying with our banks. Foreign debt covers items that have to be repaid, along with interest, in designated foreign currencies. Not to include the three categories of debt just mentioned is not merely sophistry, but presumably breach of parliamentary privilege as well. But a major decision has evidently been reached in the highest quarters. The nation and its representatives must not be informed about the extent of bondage their government has enmeshed them in. Some figures are therefore purposely concealed. Simple-minded MPs leave it at that and refrain from probing further; they do not bother to cross-examine the nfinister on the components of debt he has included or excluded, the breakdown of the oatstanding total debt in its various categories, or the schedule of repayment obligations for, for example, the next five years, including estimates of repayments due in individual years, months and weeks. The impression has been sought to be spread that forcing the finance minister to make such data public would affect adversely India's external credit rating: our problems of managing the household are our problems; we must not divulge information which might enable countries from where we intend to borrow in future to apply extra pressure on us.

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