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India's Demonetization Effort Has Demonstrably Failed

• https://fee.org, by Lawrence H. White

Dormant for a while, the debate over India's demonetization program of last fall has been revived by new evidence. The new evidence on note returns and GDP vindicates the critics and has the defenders in strategic retreat.

What Happened

To recap: On November 8, 2016, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi shocked the nation by announcing the immediate "demonetization" of the two largest rupee currency notes (Rs 500, worth about $7.50, and Rs 1000, worth about $15). Noteholders would have only 50 days to turn them in for new Rs 500 and Rs 2000 notes. The move, Modi promised, would sharply penalize holders of unaccounted "black money," namely tax evaders, bribe-takers, professional criminals, and terrorists. Their currency hoards would become worthless — a welcome one-time wealth loss — or they would expose themselves to detection by trying to swap or deposit large batches. Anyone depositing a large sum in old notes would face scrutiny by tax authorities.

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