Dine with Ivanka; Waltz with Salman!
Ivanka Trump may have charmed India and given us a glimpse of elegance in black and white. But the person whom the BJP should be watching for the real lessons in how to make black all white is Salman...
Not Salman, The Khan - but Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.
On November 4th, within hours of the formation of an anti-corruption committee headed by the Crown Prince, a number of Saudi members of the royal family and leading businessmen were arrested and made to check in to the Ritz Carlton hotel as "guests".
The 1,700 bank accounts and assets of the over 200 individuals under detention - estimated to be USD 800 billion in value - are frozen.
Over the past few weeks, negotiations have been going on inside the Ritz Carlton for the release of the powerful who are under luxurious detention - reportedly as guests of the Saudi government.
The rich royals and the royally rich can have their cake at the Ritz, but the Saudi government wants its slice.
On November 17th, the Financial Times reported that the Crown Prince was willing to release the over 200 detained individuals if they handed over 70% of their wealth to the Treasury. That adds up to a cool USD 560 billion. This is about 2x the size of India's total government expenditure every year that is outlined in the annual budget.
The Saudi coffers have been under strain due to low oil prices and the increasing cost of subsidizing the development of the local economy and fighting wars in the region. Saudi Arabia's budget deficit for 2016 was USD 79 billion - about 15% of GDP.
The low price of oil and the continuing spend on arms and other imports has also seen the foreign exchange reserves decline from USD 750 billion in 2015 to less than USD 500 billion.
Moody's may find it difficult to give any sort of credit rating upgrade.
Clearly, some money from those who have allegedly fed off their family or royal connections will help restore the tax revenue that is so badly needed and the depleting foreign exchange reserves.
On November 29th news reports suggest that Crown Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, once a potential successor to the throne before Crown Prince Salman assumed power, agreed to pay an "acceptable settlement agreement" of reportedly USD 1 billion and was allowed to check out of the Ritz Carlton.
It is unclear whether the USD 1 billion includes his cost for the hotel stay for the past 25 nights.
But the point is, if you really want to make India a black and white nation - to match the black and white of Ivanka's dress during her 2 km walk in the Golconda Fort - Crown Prince Salman has offered India a template.
There really is no need to have hundreds of millions of poor people stand in line to change notes to convert black to white; or to have a chorus of ministers and clap-men ready to tweet the herald of a new dawn within seconds of a quarterly GDP number being released; or to delay the winter session of Parliament so that the entire cabinet can campaign for a state election.
That all sounds so lame. So phony. So unnecessary.
Just do what Ivanka's father said he would and what Salman did: Lock Them Up.
And then ask for the money to let them out.
70% sounds fair - it seems to be working in Saudi Arabia.
With 96% of the 12-month estimated budget deficit breached in 7 months, the Indian government needs money.
Oh, yes: and make sure the hotel guests pay the GST on the hotel bills on the way out.
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