Rationalizing the Absence of an Indian SWF

Nearly two years ago, we had debated (here and here) the pros and cons of India’s establishment of a sovereign wealth fund (SWF), when that topic was the flavour of the day. Since then, the global financial crisis and receding stock markets at least partially eclipsed the increasing appeal of SWFs. Nevertheless they continue to capture the attention of regulators and commentators.

In a paper Sovereign Wealth – No Fund: The Decisive Role of Domestic Veto Players, Bernhard Reinsberg offers an explanation in political economy for the lack of an SWF in India. Here is the abstract:

Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs), government-owned investment funds, are of growing importance in international finance. They are a vehicle to manage foreign exchange reserves and wealth which have been accumulating in the emerging world, particularly in the BRICs. However, while China and Russia set up SWFs over the last decade, India and Brazil still lack such funds. In analysing thoroughly the Indian case, this paper seeks to contribute to recent literature on the determinants of SWFs with two main findings: First, it confirms conventional economic theory which shows the requirement of excessive foreign reserves for the set-up of SWFs. Second, it suggests that political systems matter, as demonstrated by the lively debate in India on whether that country should have such a fund. In this way, influential societal actors, in particular the central bank and regulating agencies as well as business associations, have dominated the public discourse and successfully lobbied the government to waive initial plans in support of an alternative wealth management scheme.

About the author

Umakanth Varottil

Umakanth Varottil is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore. He specializes in corporate law and governance, mergers and acquisitions and cross-border investments. Prior to his foray into academia, Umakanth was a partner at a pre-eminent law firm in India.

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