Vivek Kaul is an author, columnist and commentator, known for his Easy Money trilogy on the history of money and banking and the fundamental issue behind the global financial crisis. His latest book, Bad Money: Inside the NPA Mess and How It Threatens the Indian Banking System, focuses on the layers within layers of India’s non-performing assets problem.
In this interview with Newslaundry’s Abhinandan Sekhri, Vivek kicks off by explaining how Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi have become the “poster boys” of the NPA mess in India, even though there’s an entire list of defaulters in the Parliament which hasn’t been spotlighted. Everyone, from the media to readers, seem to have lost interest, he says.
Abhinandan asks if the exponential jump in bank fraud is counterintuitive to the “Modi hai toh mumkin hai” slogan, but Vivek points out that while fraud is “recognised when it is recognised, that does not mean it happened at that point of time. It might have also taken place five years ago.”
Vivek also explains that he used simple language and minimal jargon in Bad Money, since his target audience is an average reader. When Abhinandan asks him to choose a favourite finance minister, he settles on Manmohan Singh, adding that Pranab Mukherjee’s policies were “a failure” since Mukherjee was “stuck in the 1980s”.
The discussion moves to the poor state of public sector banks, how that’s led to a reduction of assets, and India’s current policy of “privatisation by malign neglect”. They talk about the Reserve Bank of India’s performance during international financial crises, and whether private banks are any better than public sector banks in the Indian context.
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