Steve Forbes, chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media, added his voice to the stream of criticism by the foreign media of the government’s demonetisation move in a hard-hitting editorial calling it “immoral” and an “awful act”. In the article, that will appear in the January 24, 2017 print issue of the magazine but already available online, Forbes censured the Narendra Modi government for withdrawing 86 per cent of legal currency in the country in an ‘unprecedented act’ that will significantly hurt the economy.
“Not since India’s short-lived forced-sterilization program in the 1970s–this bout of Nazi-like eugenics was instituted to deal with the country’s “overpopulation”–has the government engaged in something so immoral,” Forbes wrote. “Terrorists aren’t about to quit their evil acts because of a currency change. As for the digitization of money, it will happen in its own good time if free markets are permitted. And the best cure for tax evasion is a flat tax or, at the least, a simple, low-rate tax system that renders tax evasion hardly worth the effort. Make it easy to do business legally and most people will do just that.”
Stressing on the nature of the Indian economy where majority of the transactions are still done in cash, Forbes said India’s “awful act” underscores another piece of immorality that money represents what people produce in the real world. “Governments don’t create resources, people do,” he wrote, adding that what “India has done is commit a massive theft” of people’s property “without even the pretense of due process”. He wrote that this was a “shocking move for a democratically elected government.”
While announcing the surprise move on the night of November 8, PM Modi had given a deadline of December 30 until which people can exchange their old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 bills with new notes. But long queues at banks and ATMs are still being reported as the Reserve Bank attempts to pump new notes into the market. The government has maintained that the radical move to demonetise notes will end corruption, slash at the roots of terrorist funding from counterfeit notes and flush out black money from the economy. It also said the move will help India turn into a ‘cashless’ economy that thrives on digital transactions.
Forbes said in the editorial that the move by the government will harm its people and set a dreadful example for the world. He added the government must find ways to slash income and business tax rates and attempt to make the rupee as strong as the Swiss franc.
Meanwhile, in an editorial The Wall Street Journal tried to highlight how the state has far greater means to harm the public in a cashless, “both through inept policies and abuses of power”. The December 22 opinion piece, the WSJ said”the government should respect citizens who want to keep some cash. “Imposing a ‘cashless society’ is antithetical to economic liberty.”