February 08, 2012

India, whatever you do, do not forget that risk-taking, not risk-aversion, is the oxygen of development.

Sir, Martin Wolf in “Crisis must not change India’s course”, February 8, would perhaps like to make clear to his green readers that when he writes “India can generate rapid growth by catching up on the world’s richest countries, almost regardless of the global environment” that it was not that “global environment” he was referring to. 

Wolf then recommends carefully watching the financial system and adopting the emerging global norms, because “Huge crisis may be socially manageable for high-income countries. They would be grossly irresponsible for a country like India”. I completely disagree. 

Global banking norms, which have emerged in the developed world, are designed to encourage banks to invest in what is not risky, completely ignoring the efficient capital allocation purposes of a bank, and that, though sad and not good, might be something acceptable for a high-income country that wants to hold on to what it’s got, is completely unacceptable for a poor developing country. 

A country like India cannot afford to forget that the cost of keeping its banks safe could be much larger than a bank crisis, because of all the developing opportunities foregone. Someone ought to have asked Mr. Wolf how his country developed and what banking norms were in place in his country before the current ones.