This year McKinsey’s annual retreat for its busy consultants was in Kashgar in China, a country which McKinsey, like many other MNCs, believes is important for its future. “About four miles from where the McKinsey consultants discussed their work, which includes advising some of China’s most important state-owned companies, a sprawling internment camp had sprung up to hold thousands of ethnic Uighurs — part of a vast archipelago of indoctrination camps where the Chinese government has locked up as many as one million people. One week before the McKinsey event, a United Nations committee had denounced the mass detentions and urged China to stop….For a quarter-century, the company has joined many American corporations in helping stoke China’s transition from an economic laggard to the world’s second-largest economy. But as China’s growth presents a muscular challenge to American dominance, Washington has become increasingly critical of some of Beijing’s signature policies, including the ones McKinsey has helped advance.”
However, China isn’t the only authoritarian regime which can pride itself on being a McKinsey client.
“…clients have included Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy, Turkey under the autocratic leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and corruption-plagued governments in countries like South Africa. In Ukraine, McKinsey and Paul Manafort — President Trump’s campaign chairman, later convicted of financial fraud — were paid by the same oligarch to help burnish the image of a disgraced presidential candidate, Viktor F. Yanukovych, recasting him as a reformer….Inside Russia itself, McKinsey has worked with Kremlin-linked companies…In Malaysia, the company laid out the case for one of Asia’s most corrupt leaders to pursue billions of dollars from China at a time when he was suspected of funneling vast sums of public money into his own pocket, drawing tens of thousands into the streets to protest against him.”
The NYT article highlights how projects/authoritiarian leaders advised by McKinsey often get into trouble (we are putting it politely; the article is less polite). Here is an example:
“In a confidential PowerPoint report, McKinsey told Malaysian officials that the rail line could increase economic growth in parts of the country by as much as 1.5 percent. It was a figure that the prime minister at the time, Najib Razak, who now has been charged with corruption, liked to cite. In bullet points, McKinsey also said the project would help improve ties with China — “build the nation-to-nation relationship” — because of its importance in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. And McKinsey endorsed the idea of heavy borrowing from China, referring to it as a “game changer” elsewhere in the region.”
Hopefully, Indian politicians – who often use McKinsey to prop up their reformist credentials – will read the NYT article.
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