Party Spokeswoman’s Lies and Venom Against One of the World’s Richest Countries
Fighting lies with lies and venom appears to be the strategy of the BJP government in India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In a Times Now debate a few days ago, a BJP spokeswoman, Sanju Verma, had some startling claims: They include:
- “Should the global IT / electronics sector perish (sic) Singapore as a country, sorry city-state, will go bankrupt.”
- “Singapore’s public debt to GDP ratio is 250% whereas India’s is just 60%.”
- “Singapore’s current account deficit is 24% India’s whereas that of India is 2%.”
Her sweeping, petty proclamations, nonetheless, have made me wiser as I did some credible research (eschewing the fake news machinery that the BJP often relies on to spread lies) which brought up some confidence-boosting data.
Singapore’s GDP Per Capita is Just Marginally Lower than U.S.
Sanju Verma is perhaps still smarting under how India was rescued from bankruptcy in 1991 thanks to the economic reforms initiated by then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and then Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
After all, the BJP’s national policy is to not give any credit to the accomplishments of the Congress government. That obsession must have erased from her mind that Singapore is among the richest countries in the world, with its GDP per capita (US$52,960) only marginally lower than that of the U.S. (57,466) – based on World Bank data.
For the record, India’s GDP Per Capita is USD 1,709. Here, Sanju Verma will have an easy escape. She can simply say that it was “due to 60 years of Congress rule.”
As for her second claim on Singapore’s public debt to GDP ratio, that is a self-goal. First, the figure is less than half of what she puts forth. Both the U.S. and Singapore are on a near-even footing there.
Next, Singapore is a financial powerhouse and, therefore, it attracts a lot of funds from overseas which are parked under local banking institutions. These funds account for a significant portion of the external debt and, therefore, not liabilities. These funds flow in only because Singapore is deemed safe.
Reserves and Recessions
Also, Singapore owns assets in multiple forms (physical assets and financial assets such as cash, bonds and securities internationally) that far exceed liabilities which, in effect, is a signal that the country has zero net debt. Here is a report that values Singapore’s Assets Under Management at US$ 1.9 trillion.
In addition, its cash reserves are also in excess of US$ 275 billion. For a city-state with only half the population as that of Mumbai, as Sanju Verma says, this is a sizeable sum.
Singapore has weathered several global recessions over the years and it was only once it had to dip into its reserves (taking out only about $5 billion and putting it back when normality returned).
To the best of my knowledge, Singapore has only been consistently seeing a current account surplus, not deficit, the last around two decades.
BJP Stung by Movie’s Attacks on So-Called Reforms
But just what prompted the wild charges hurled by Sunju Verma. It was simply because the BJP was stung by attacks in the Tamil movie, Mersal, against the Indian Government’s GST structure and misplaced digital dreams.
The film’s protagonist is said to have claimed in the movie that “GST is only 7% in Singapore, but medical coverage is free.” That is an inaccurate claim used to criticise the 28% GST in India.
Any sane government will have either ignored it or given a simple counter, pointing out the mistake. But the BJP is a vicious beast, and nothing other than its own divisive ideology is sacred to it. It is ready to not just violate ethical norms but also spread canards about neighbouring countries.
No Respect for Data Confidentiality, Individual Privacy
With the BJP’s primary mission being to expand its political base by dividing the country on communal lines, the party spokesperson in Tamil Nadu, H. Raja (Raja Harihara Sharma), posted the voter ID of the actor in the social media, pointing to his Christian name (Joseph Vijay).
A few other party spokespersons (including Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan) chimed in with their own hate commentaries. The common refrain was of a non-existent Christian (which they will use interchangeably with Islam) conspiracy to destroy Hinduism.
Piracy and Channel Anchor Rushing to BJP Defence
H Raja even shamelessly claimed to have watched the movie (Mersal) online in what must have clearly been a pirated version which is illegal.
The Times Now anchor was consistently trying to protect the BJP’s central leadership. His argument was that the party’s spokespersons in Tamil Nadu were becoming an embarrassment for its central leadership. That did not appear to have gone well with Sanju Verma. My impression is that the party mouthpieces only reflect the opinion of its central leadership. They are just not as vocal, patronising escapism.
I don’t want to wade into the BJP domain of reckless arguments, but what is clear from it is that the India under Modi has no respect for data confidentiality or individual privacy. If an individual’s voter ID can be uploaded online, so can his Aadhar (An Indian version of Singapore’s NRIC) and PAN (Permanent Account Number) cards.
G Joslin Vethakumar