The argument had considerable merit to it. “Invest in real estate around Delhi. 10% appreciation every year is certain. Add another 5% because of rupee appreciation… now where can you get these kind of returns?” I was impressed by the logic, not least because the financial advisor didn’t stand to make any money out of the advice.
It was a few years ago and India was rising, or so said everyone. The country was in a smug, self-satisfied and gloating mood. We received Obama and dropped 50 billion dollars on American goods, giving the US economy 10,000 jobs. England’s PM came and was greeted by similar largesse. Colonialism’s wheel come full circle, gushed Indian media.
The rupee was in the early 40’s and getting younger by the day. Late 30’s seemed a distinct possibility. I thought long and told the advisor, “I have full confidence in our politicians, count on them to mess it up”. We had a good chuckle and that was that. I have not made many wise investment decisions in my life, but events proved me right on this one.
India amazes, confounds and depresses me, more now than it ever has throughout my life. John Kenneth Galbraith’s description of the country as “functioning anarchy” is as true today as it was decades ago.
The rupee is at 56 and the same financial advisor is back. It’s the same argument. India’s long-term economic rise is inevitable, foreign capital will start flowing in again, voters will demand and eventually get good governance, judiciary are independent… a string of impressive arguments that somehow don’t add up.
As to the future, elections are around the corner in the world’s largest democracy. Public finances will take a turn for the worse, as they always do before a major election. And where could the rupee then go? 60? 65? No target is beyond our political class.