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Mending manifestos

Irrespective of which party comes to power, the veritable absence of jobs will be the ticking time bomb and, with agriculture brought to its knees, Bharat will no long come to the rescue of India, as it has done in the past.

Editorial |

The tenacious Raghuram Rajan persists with his efforts to knock sense into India’s the pre-election discourse; to turn the government-sponsored narrative from mandir-gau-mata to issues around roti-kapda-makaan, which are becoming critical given India’s fast-growing economic disparities and the spectre of joblessness now visiting the economy.

Irrespective of which party comes to power, the veritable absence of jobs will be the ticking time bomb and, with agriculture brought to its knees, Bharat will no long come to the rescue of India, as it has done in the past. This is why the efforts of such eminent intellect to “spur debate and discussion” with their report, ‘An Economic Strategy for India’, is welcome.

Essentially, a dozen top economists, apart from the former Reserve Bank of India governor, have collectively prepared the five-year agenda for the country spelling out what its economic priorities should be; fixing the roots of the problem while addressing macroeconomic stability.

One should not normally need such top minds to tell Indians about the criticality of a strong, clean banking sector nor should it need their prodding for the country to realize the need for an equitable society that Indian is veering away from.

Yet, the manner in which these basic concerns have been given the cold shoulder by the government over the past four years has been a bewildering experience for the average person and a killing one for many in the margins. It is unlikely that the government can manage the simmering discontent with continued distractions, allowing pent up emotions to find vent in public lynching of imaginary enemies, for instance.

Therefore, it is time to consider “stronger, sustainable and inclusive growth”, without which India cannot generate the resources to significantly expand its welfare schemes, which will be essential to draw people from beyond the margins into the mainstream. If India does generate that growth, the economist argue, “not only will there be less demand for welfare but there will be more resources to service any demand”.

For all the veneer of glory over India’s accomplishments in terms of being the world’s sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and the third-largest by purchasing power parity, India has 200 million people in the “food insecure” category and is amongst the top few globally in terms of the largest number of hungry, which gives the game away.

The economists thus advise “prioritizing government spending better, focusing on filling clear investment gaps and protecting the vulnerable”. This means a better taxation system with “effective collection from rich non-payers”, working on labour reforms, wider spread of quality education, healthcare and addressing the rapidly degenerating environment.

In other words, they are talking of good governance and not governance for effect ~ never mind how tall the statue ~ or blatantly promoting crony capitalism because good governance is good economics and better politics. Admittedly, there is the zealousness of the devout that provides the government with sustenance but a god that fails repeatedly can hardly expect to command hearts and minds for eternity.