So you want to be rich? A few years back this would have been viewed as a stupid question. Not so today – and it is not as difficult as you might imagine
By Arvind Saxena
So you want to be rich? A few years back this would have been viewed as a stupid question. You could want to be a doctor, engineer, teacher, scientist, professor, agriculturist, politician, film star, singer, musician, or a businessman, but getting rich was never a vocation. Not so today – and it is not as difficult as you might imagine.
The world has changed and the laws governing business are no longer written by your elected representatives, they are written by the super-rich themselves. It is big money which boosts the nation’s GDP and gives our leaders a place at the high tables of international relations, while also creating a semblance of development for domestic consumption. The path to getting rich has therefore already been laid out over the last two to three decades for aspirational people like you.
Path to Riches. Pic – Briefly News
‘Ease of doing business’, ‘too big to fail’, ‘trickle-down theory’, ‘liberalisation’, ‘globalised economy’, ‘private public partnership’, ‘disinvestment’, right-sizing’, etc., are all concepts created for you, which we have been made to believe are the bedrock of economic progress. Of course, the wealth you accumulate might not be rightfully yours, but then who cares. All you need to do is to stay focussed on exploiting the system to your advantage.
The first thing you need to understand is that education has no relevance in the world of the super-rich. I would not like to name people here but do take a couple of minutes to Google for the top five to ten richest men and women in the world. The results are unambiguous – practically all of the richest people are school or college dropouts. Higher education is for employees you will be hiring to work for you. In any case, once you are rich you can set up endowments at Colleges and Universities and buy all the qualifications you want.
The second thing to remember is that you must either know or work hard to cultivate friendship with a few powerful politicians. The higher they are placed the better. These friendships will be purely transactional, the ‘take some give some’ type. You need them to get off the block – to secure seed capital for your dream. With the right political backing, technical feasibility, economic viability, and due diligence can all be managed. No need to be anxious here. The few people who get caught up in scams, etc., are those who either did not have political backing or had run afoul of the powers that be. Choose your friends carefully and, if possible, in more than one camp.
You also need to relocate some brothers, sisters, cousins, etc., in a few countries where they can set up shell companies to siphon out the wealth you will be making in your country. This is where you need to cultivate some tax officials also. After all you don’t want regulatory authorities making things difficult for you.
The third thing is to forget everything you might have been taught about ethics, morality, honesty, and other similar high-sounding words, which will no longer belong to your new world. Let naive people debate about the importance of such values for a fair society, you are here to corner wealth.
Wealth and tax regimes
Let us start by understanding the financial ecosystem you aspire to be a part of. According to the 2023 World Inequality Report, the poorest 50% of the population own just 2% of the total net wealth, while the richest 10% own 76%. Of these top 10%, the top-most 1% have cornered more than 40% of the wealth. The remaining is shared amongst the middle 40%. Your aim is to part company with the hapless people who inhabit the bottom half of the population and move into the top 10%, and if possible, the top 1%.
Several studies have repeatedly shown that the wealthier a household, the lesser the income reported by it, relative to its wealth. In simple terms, typically, billionaires pay a tiny amount of tax relative to their wealth. Most taxpayers are workers and salaried persons, whose taxes are paid out of their wages and salaries. Now this should really fire you up to set the right course.
Learn some other things like, in most countries the tax regime applicable to capital income does not require the unrealised capital gains to be taxed, or to be reported in the tax returns. This is your incentive to avoid realising capital gains and thereby reduce your tax liability. You must remain invested in equity capital and its by-products. If you want to be wealthy your realised capital gains should remain a tiny fraction of the returns from the capital held by you.
Again, you must minimise the dividend payouts and thus minimise the distribution of profits among the stockholders. Profits distributed as dividends have to be reported as personal income and hence invite tax liability for the recipient. In contrast, reinvested profits reduce the tax obligation and raise the value of equity, resulting in hefty tax-free capital gains. You could also arrange for a part of the dividend income to be received indirectly in the accounts of financial intermediaries like limited liability partnerships and keep them away from individual accounts. Do you see the opportunities which have been created for you in modern taxation systems? These are there for you to exploit.
Do not be worried about failure, in fact it might be worth your while to let your company go down under. The system will take care of it. Every year banks write of billions of dollars as non-recoverable bad loans. This is justified as a bookkeeping exercise to clean up the accounts of the banks but eventually only a small portion is ever recovered. The remaining gets made good from low returns on deposits, public money, or tax recoverable from banks. This should reassure you.
Also at this stage, quickly identify an accounting company which can audit your books and produce your annual reports just the way you want them to be done. Your tax consultants and auditors, if they are worth their fees, should be able to show you many more well-established options. After all you pay them well, just as you pay well to your top CEOs and financial officers, for keeping your secrets and doing some creative accounting for you. To sum up, the world has been reconstructed for you since the early 1990s.
The richest in the world had learnt about these facts early on in life and instead of wasting their time on education, they quickly moved on to cash in. You should too!
How to move ahead
All right, now let us look at how to move ahead. Let us start with manufacturing, infrastructure, and international trade. First draw up a super ambitious business plan. Whether it is practical or not is immaterial, it should involve large numbers and massive capital investments in land, plant, and machinery. It should also promise job opportunities for a large number of unemployed. The key word is promise, whether we realise, or even intend to realise, the promise or not is not important. The word here is ‘big ticket’ investment.
Now get your political friends to arm-twist some banks or financial institutions to extend huge loans to you, ostensibly for economic progress of the nation. Also, see if you can get some state institution to acquire a big piece of land or other property, not for you, but for the country’s economic development. Get them to build roads, provide electricity and in general develop the area at public cost so that you can contribute in industrializing the state. Go ahead and buy plants and machinery from third countries at bargain prices, do look at reconditioned or scrapped equipment also. Ask your cousin in a tax haven-type country to become the supplier for the plant and machinery, and other raw material, which should be sold to your brand-new company at hugely inflated prices. See how beautifully it works. Huge amounts of money have been paid out to shell companies which make massive profits, which can be legally kept out of your country. Buy some swanky office space and a few luxury cars, so that the loan is well consumed.
Meanwhile, get the enterprise going. Your products and services should be targeted at the government as the lead consumer or buyer. Set up things in a manner that your products and services should reach the masses, but the expenditure should be from the public exchequer. Things like free utilities, infrastructure, insurance, health, and education come to mind. Is the product deleterious to human health or is the service you sell destroying human society is none of your concern. Go ahead, sell them fast food, untested drugs, overpriced imports, or social media services which will destabilize societies and promote discord. Not your concern.
Invest in some good PR and image make-over companies to build a super shiny image for yourself. Of course, it need not be the truth. They will give you a brand-new personal history bringing out your brilliance from early childhood to how you have worked hard for social causes, poverty alleviation, environment, wildlife conservation, protecting heritage, etc. They will build a persona showing you as a caring employer, philanthropist and whatever else are the top selling traits of the times. It is a good investment. Sometime in the future you might also consider buying up a few media houses, or at least get them to do your bidding for advertising revenue, or outright payouts. Self-projection and building a Santa Claus like image will serve you well.
Now that you have a going company manned by a few qualified men and women and lots of contractual workers, look at listing your company on the stock exchange. Come up with a public offering, where you can manipulate your share price and escalate the value by pumping in money from your offshore shell investors and market players who will help you for a price. Some jealous people call it ‘round-tripping of money’; just ignore them. Now use the artificially inflated share value to raise new loans from banks and keep playing the game to raise the book value of your assets – and your personal worth.
Try to buy up land and natural resources, infrastructure, etc. Create monopolies by buying out or destroying competitors. Use your personal wealth stashed abroad to buy up high end properties and stake in safe conglomerates. Notice we have not talked about blatantly illegal practices like money laundering, trafficking in drugs and other contraband, fictitious trade or trade in spurious goods and of course the age-old smuggling of anything in short supply.
Acquire a foreign citizenship
At some point in time, consider acquiring a foreign citizenship also. There are several countries which sell their citizenship. If things get hot at home, relocate yourself and operate from a safe haven. You can continue with your predatory practices in your motherland, while enjoying the privileges of an honoured citizen abroad. In fact, if you work with foresight, the same tycoons, whose hands you shake at elite global forum conferences, can also help you get some high-sounding national awards, which can establish your credentials in your new country of residence. The ecosystem is now the same in most countries. The leadership is beholden to their top businessmen, who can easily bend rules to help their friends – transactional of course – the same ‘give some, take some’ type.
Do you feel this scale is too big for you? No problem, there are many other routes. Look at real estate development, league sports, higher education, tertiary health care, minerals, and many other areas. You can scale down even further and start with some ‘services aggregation’, or ‘retail sales’ Apps. These Apps will damage the real physical economy, kill jobs, suppress wages, and force the working class into inhuman working conditions. This need not bother you – go ahead, there is quick money here.
Once again, make a super promising business plan and use your political connections to get some big loans. Tie up with PR firms, advertising executives and data thieves to build your real revenue model. There are kickbacks in all transactions, whether you are selling space for advertisers or selling your own advertisements. All transactions can get you money and, handled smartly, can make your business look lucrative. Keep salting away money as you go ahead.
Two things can happen – your business might eventually fail, or you might have actually built something that works. In the first case, just walk away after shutting shop. With right connections you might not be chased by the lenders. You have made money and are now set to start another venture. Don’t worry, the same tricks will work again. On the other hand, if your business is profitable, chose the right time and sell it to the highest bidder. Remember the cardinal rule, there is money to be made in every transaction. Keep doing this till you start knocking at the doors of the elite clubs.
Greed is the prime mover of modern economies. It is no longer a dirty word and will take you to where you want to be. There is so much calling you out to get rich that if you still don’t take the plunge, you have only yourself to blame. Buckle up, the system beckons.
Arvind Saxena is former Chairman, Union Public Service Commission, India
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 28 July 2023
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