Emergence of new Modi

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They say every crisis is an opportunity. The coronavirus lockdown has spurred the Modi Government to undertake a comprehensive, all-embracing reform of the economy. The humongous Rs. 20-lakh-crore economic revival package evoked scepticism. Where will such a huge amount of money come from? Nowhere was it suggested that all Rs. 20-lakh crore would be freshly minted currency notes. Post-pandemic packages in most other countries were a mix of new and old allocations and some readjustments. Besides, money is not the only thing you need to reform. Policy reforms can be far more important. Remember the 1991-Narasimha Rao reforms. They were important for removing artificial roadblocks in the path of growth. So, the big-bang economic revival plan Modi announced on Tuesday and which on the consecutive five days Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has valiantly tried to flesh out with some details is a mix of fresh allocations, reordering of a few old ones, and, above all, a new set of bold policy measures for faster growth. The long overdue reforms of land, labour and capital, as also the dismantling of the monopoly Agriculture Produce Market Committees in selling farm produce, and opening of the coal and mining sectors to private parties, etc., are no less important than the reforms undertaken at any time before. Should these be implemented sincerely there is no reason
why the economy cannot return to the path of double-digit growth. The government will have to ensure that the ossified mindsets of the babudom, and the conduct of vested interests in the private sector which have prospered exploiting a system of crony capitalism, do not obstruc change. Everyone needs to be on the same page for the game-changer reforms to bear fruit. Meanwhile, one wonders which is the real Modi?
The challenge now will be for the entrepreneurial class to try and realise its full potential. It has a ready-made continent-sized domestic market alone of over 130 crore consumers to serve. The reforms unveiled in the past couple of days, and, if implemented well granted, that is a big if hold the promise of transforming the face of the economy. The business community can no longer excuse its failure by blaming politicians. Ideally, the role of the government will be two-fold. One, to put in place a strong regulatory mechanism to oversee private sector, and, two, to ensure a level-playing-field in a fiercely competitive marketplace, with each player bringing his own productive and marketing skills to bring to bear on it to get ahead rather than relying on his proximity to the rulers to succeed, as had been the case under the malign socialist regimes. Meanwhile, Modi is bound to meet resistance from the Sangh parivar, especially from the BMS and the Swadeshi Jagran Manch. Given his position as the foremost leader of the country, he can easily brush aside their objections. Besides, given the ruling party’s natural antipathy towards anything associated with Nehru, dismantling the wasteful vestiges of the Nehruvian controls and licenses on growth should really be a cause of celebration for the Sangh parivar.

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