Why Are Rich Indians Moving Out of the Country?

In the past three years, 17,000 rich people (dollar millionaires, those who have more than 6.5 crore in wealth) have left India. South Africa-based market research agency New World Wealth publishes an annual report, according to which 7,000 super rich people in 2017, 6,000 in 2016, and 4,000 in 2015 left India and established domicile abroad.

Migration is not a new concept. It has existed since the dawn of time. Wealth and people have always been in constant flow. But any trend needs to be viewed in reference to place, time and existing situations.

This report does not mention the migration rate of people who are not dollar millionaires.

The issue has been discussed constantly for the past few years in the world of business, tax and tourism. The numbers are believed to be in the millions. According to the data that is available, at least 2-3 lakh people have settled abroad.

Others say the number is closer to 4-5 lakh people. The government does not tell us just how many people each year decide to move out of India and not remain taxpayers in the country; or how many have renounced their passport for another citizenship; or how many have become resident taxpayers in other countries.

Only rough estimates can be made from the publicly available information.

Why Have Rich Indians Left?

In times like these, when for the past three years global markets have slowed down, why is it that instead of searching for opportunities in India, people have still chosen to go abroad? One answer is that there is nothing unusual in this.

Wherever there is an opportunity to make a living, people get there. Another answer would be to save on tax, to get away without paying any – generally people who are not very honest and looking to run away.

There is also a third answer – the conditions here are not very conducive for doing business. Doing business here is not just difficult, it can be downright torturous. Believing that all those who have moved abroad have done so to save on tax and get away from investigative agencies is deceiving oneself.

The people who have gone abroad have done so after getting tired of a long wait.

The global recession from 2008 to 2014 and the disturbances in India had made them restless. There were aspirations, but no work. Many went abroad in frustration. You will find these people easily in Dubai, Singapore and London; and there are dozens of other countries where investment, tax and residence are quite easy now. Moreover, today, travelling has become quite easy.

They are NRIs. We either believe them to be patriots or crooks – we need to resolve our dilemma. I can tell you that most people who have left in the past few years, haven’t gone happily or in fear –they have gone in despair and frustration. Many even want to return, but there is neither place nor opportunity for them.

If ease of doing business was a reality, then Indian businesses would have been setting up new projects here, not leaving the country.

Foreign investments by Indian companies reached a record high this year, this is a good thing; but the problem is that despite having capital, these companies are unable to invest in India.

These days we constantly beat the drums of nationalism. There are constant lectures on patriotism. We are also told how the entire world is in love with India, and India is the place for global investors to invest.

If all that is true, then why is it that India’s rich and super rich are adding to the ‘quit India movement’?

(Translated from Hindi by Mariam Shaheen)

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