The 2G muddle
It was the biggest scam in the country’s history—at least until Thursday when it was found not to be a scam at all by the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court. That isn’t the end of the matter; the CBI has said it will appeal the verdict. But whatever the final resolution, there are numerous takeaways from the entire affair. Here are two important ones.
First, the propriety or lack thereof of the manner in which 2G licences were awarded during A. Raja’s tenure as telecom minister aside, the Comptroller and Auditor General’s assigning a putative value to the amount allegedly lost by the government was problematic. Maximizing revenue cannot always be the government’s prime objective—and such counterfactuals can be overreach.
Second, the Supreme Court’s subsequent decision in 2012 to cancel 122 telecom licences pointed to one of the prime dangers of regulatory opacity—the risk of policy unsustainability. The cost in both financial and opportunity terms to affected companies serves as a warning signal to foreign investors everywhere.
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