Will The New Government Get India Back On Track?

T-5 Blog 3

The 2014 national elections will be a critical waypoint along the road to realizing India’s ambitions of resuscitating economic growth. Opinion survey after opinion survey in the prelude to the polls has suggested a deeply rooted yearning for change. And, in what seems like a conspicuous anomaly when judged against the sweep of India’s post independence history, the electorate at large—both in urban and rural areas— seems seized this time around by the imperative of returning the country to a path of high growth…

The intense national anxiety in recent years about India’s economic slowdown corroborates the proposition that although the voting public may not understand abstruse economics, it has an instinctive sense of when political direction and policy change help sustain or undermine growth. Whatever the balance between the exogenous and the endogenous causes of India’s recent economic slowdown may be, there is a widespread conviction in the body politic that the national leadership has failed to steer the nation in a productive direction economically. That leads inexorably to the question of what must be done to recover momentum when the new government takes office.

This volume represents a small effort undertaken by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace toward answering that question. Obviously, the solutions proffered to such a deceptively simple query can materialize at many levels. After some reflection, the editors of this book concluded that the most useful contribution would consist of relatively short, focused essays that examined key aspects of mainly (though not exclusively) the Indian economy, whose continued reform would be central to accelerating growth. The topics covered, accordingly, range from agriculture and the environment to infrastructure and manufacturing to politico-bureaucratic processes and strategic partnerships abroad.

Altogether, the seventeen chapters collected here offer wide-ranging analyses that lead uniformly to specific policy suggestions in each issue area for the consideration of the next government. These recommendations by no means exhaust the totality of the reforms that will be necessary for India’s comprehensive transformation over the long term. Rather, they are oriented principally toward what can be achieved in the short term, meaning the life of the 16th Lok Sabha, on the assumption that it will serve a full constitutional term in office. The conclusions emerging from such a diverse body of analysis are impossible to summarize in any introduction. To the degree that common themes can be culled, the various essays in different ways emphasize the imperatives of continued reform for both economic and strategic reasons; the criticality of returning to the path of high growth and the centrality of markets in the process; the importance of appropriately strengthening key state institutions; the priority of getting the details right for the success of future reforms; and, finally, the necessity of purposive action at the state level, given both the relevant constitutional mandates and the steady shift in power from the central government to the states.

Above all, the essays in this volume consistently look forward, to necessary tasks that are yet to be completed. That very fact, nonetheless, serves as a reminder of how much India’s future reforms stem from its grand—but in at least one respect problematic—inheritance. Reviewing that bequest forms the core of this introduction: taking the long, retrospective, view, it highlights the deep roots of the challenges to successful transformation, thus making the necessity for speedy implementation of the recommendations found in the seventeen policy chapters all the more imperative for India’s continued success.

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This is an excerpt from Getting India Back on Track: http://bit.ly/T9QjAh

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The Penguin India Blog

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