Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ambani attacks Western charity ethos

July 10, 2011.

India's wealthiest man Mukesh Ambani on Sunday criticised Western philanthropy as counter-productive and said his own country's approach to charity gave more self-respect to the needy.

Ambani, who heads petrochemical giant Reliance Industries, said that rapidly-growing India could create a more sustainable model in which businesses were an beneficial part of society.

Speaking in New Delhi, he described corporate charity in the West as "a system where the more privileged is able to share a certain proportion of their wealth with the less privileged".

"I fundamentally believe that that kind of charity is by and large a disempowering tool. It increases dependency and reduces initiative and enterprise," he said.

"It doesn't create the necessary human capacity to make communities self-sustaining and independent."

Ambani, whose fortune is estimated at $27 billion, said India should look instead to its own traditions of voluntary service and anonymous giving.

"Whatever we give should be for our own satisfaction, it should never be for publicity," he said. "That is where we are different from the Western world."

Ambani is known for speaking out in favour of more equal distribution of growth in India, where hundreds of millions of people still live in desperate poverty.

But critics point out that Ambani recently built a 27-storey skyscraper in Mumbai as his own private residence, thought to be the world's most expensive home.

Mukesh and his brother Anil, who have publicly ended a feud over the division of the vast conglomerate left by their father, are hugely respected figures among India's ambitious professional classes.

"There is awareness in India that growth has to be sustainable, inclusive and environmentally friendly," he said. "CRS (corporate social responsibility) has to be an integral part of every business.

"Businesses should be measured on social returns together with financial returns."

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