Does buying imported makes me a lesser Indian?
Just a few days ago, I overheard a talk between two parking attendants. The awed and bewildered look in the eyes of one of them said that he had just arrived in Delhi. Admiring a foreignmade sports car, he asked the seasoned valet, ‘how much do you think it would cost?’ ‘Just about Rs 1.50 crore,’ came the prompt reply. ‘Rs 1.50 crore…’ the new-guy-in-Delhi repeated the figure in slow motion. ‘This little machine costs Rs 1.50 crore!’ he said disbelievingly and continued, ‘man, give me half of this and I can do wonders with such money…’ Before he could finish, the other man said, ‘and you know what, the person paid an almost equal amount of money as tax (probably referring to import duty) to get this from America (he obviously didn’t know it was a German vehicle).’
This seemed to be like an ordinary roadside conversation until the new-guy-in-Delhi asked a question that made me think and revisit all those macro and micro economics that I had ever known.
He asked, ‘ does it mean that this man earned this much money in India and gave it all to the other country just to buy this machine? If everybody in the country does that, wouldn’t all the country’s money be gone…’ While the boys’ talk got interrupted by a honking Ambassador seeking parking space, this question remained with me. I thought, Googled, read, analysed, and am yet to find the perfect answer to this simple question: ‘does buying foreign goods affect the economic balance of the country?’
Well, the seemingly logical answer I have is that in this age of globalization, proliferation of foreign-made products actually increases competition and helps increase domestic competency. It is illogical to expect consumers to go for indigenous goods if they do not match the standard and the qualities of foreign goods. At the same time, I did come across some gyaan gurus saying that reducing consumption of foreign goods would lessen India's import burden. However, compared to the trillions spent on imports of defence equipment, aeroplanes, uranium and gold, what difference can one make by refusing to buy an imported camera or a mobile phone? Some of the reasons that gyaan gurus cite to ask you to buy ‘made in India’ include fiscal imbalance, price inflation, discouragement to domestic producers, unemployment as well as loss of culture, values and local aesthetics, heritage, etc.
Now think this way: if we ‘only’ consumed indigenously made products, the situation will not be much different. The surge in demand will create pressure on local producers. Not all have the capacity to match the demand if imports will stop. Hence, there will be supply-side constraint, inflation will increase, wages will suffer, and so on.
The point I am trying to make here is that trade and geopolitics are thickly interwoven, and no country can impose arbitrary restrictions on imports. ‘Be Indian and buy Indian’ now needs to be replaced with ‘be Indian and sell Indian’. My answer to that new-guy-in-Delhi would be that as long as Germans are buying our pashmina and silk, and continue to holiday across our states, there is no harm in buying sports machines from them.