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George Soros on India, nation building and philanthropy

By Manu A B in Mumbai
December 23, 2006 20:05 IST
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George Soros dons many roles: financial speculator, stock investor, philanthropist and liberal political activist. Soros who is on his first visit to India, attended the Global PanIIT conference in Mumbai on Saturday.

The 27th richest American, Soros liked to keep a low profile and declined to talk about the much touted investment proposals in India.  "We would like to keep a low profile which I believe is very appropriate," Soros known for his unconventional investment strategies said.

He shared his thoughts about India, nation building, philanthropy and his mission going forward.

On India
I'm here to know more about India. India is emerging as an important playground in the world, generating a lot of worldwide interest. I will be investing in India; my representatives are taking care of the investments in India. I would not like to talk about it. India is an emerging market and needs more investors.

Outlook on India
India presents a very favourable outlook. For the next three years there will be tremendous opportunities in India. But the challenge would be to ensure that a good majority of the people are benefited by the rate of growth in India. India has the task of satisfying not just the minority of the population. Majority of the population should benefit from India's economic success.

Micro credit for India
Financial products are not serving the underprivileged in India. India should focus on micro-credit to help the vast majority of the under served. Incentives should be provided to scale up micro credit to empower the masses. Grameen Bank is a great example of micro credit. Excellent example of micro credit to learn from for India.

Challenges for India
Education and meeting the human resource need would be a big challenge for India in the next 3-5 years. India must focus more on education. It must ensure that more children get elementary education.

On investment mantra
There is no secret as such. When I know the weakness in a system, it gives me more confidence to invest and make money.

On open societies
I believe in open society, which basically is a democratic set up. I believe in empowering people who are in democracy deficient countries to come up intellectually. India is a flourishing democracy with many opportunities.

On philanthropy in India
Retrograde laws in India do not allow to get involved in philanthropic activities in India.

On dollar's future
I know what the dollar's future is but I don't have the liberty to disclose it! (laughs)

On Bank of England episode
(Soros is known for breaking the Bank of England on Black Wednesday in 1992)
My role in the Bank of England is exaggerated. No single person can do it. Markets punish countries when they misalign currencies.

On being a stateless statesman
I loved to be known as one. States are supposed to have interests with no principles. I have principles but no vested interests. When I'm investing, I play according to the rules. I play to win. Since I'm a capitalist, I'm seeking profits. And as a philanthropist I'm seeking the welfare of the public.

Concerned about financial markets?
Well, the answer is no! But boom, bubble and bust are areas I have specialised in.
I'm more concerned about the political situation in countries like the US, the Bush administration, which creates instability in the world and doesn't take international opinion into account.

On nation building
One has to ideally give time and money for nation building. The new breed of entrepreneurs must use their time and money in philanthropy. They must do well in business, become rich and give back to the society. Giving money is easy but it is more important to give time.

Future mission
The more you get involved, the more you have to work on. Global warming is top of my agenda. I have seriously been thinking about global warming. It will adversely affect our children and future generations.

I'm also concerned about the political world order; the EU has to play a more coercive role in the world.

The world order is based on sovereign states. A lot of issues need to be tackled with international cooperation. US is trying to establish itself as the leader of the world by rejecting international opinion which is not a good trend.

Advice to young Indians

  • Make money and engage in philanthropy.
  • Knowledge economy should continue to drive the economy.
  • The knowledge has a multiplier effect so you have to keep the engine going.
  • Give money and time to nation building activities.
  • Be successful in business and decide to do good work for the society.

"I have developed a philosophy that has played a central role in my life. It has guided me in making money and spending it, although it is not about money. I know how important that philosophy is for me personally, but I am still in the process of finding out whether it can have a similar significance for others. That is my first priority and this book is probably my final effort in this regard," George Soros wrote in his recently released book, The Age of Fallibility.

PanIIT 2006 Global Conference

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