My colleague Rajesh Jain was a speaker at the the Eight Annual India Business Conference 2012 at Columbia University on 14th April in New York City. It was held at the Low Library, a US national historic landmark building (picture on the right.) I was at the conference and had the opportunity to meet Prof Jagadish Bhagwati and Prof Arvind Panagariya. I am pleased to say that Rajesh’s talk was very well-received. Here’s what he said.
Rajesh’s point is that we know what needs to be done to transform India, for it to become a developed country. He therefore talked about the “how”. We have to change India’s governance. As he put it, “. . . the road map is there, what’s missing is the driver; the vision is there; what’s missing is the leadership, and the will and vision to implement it . . . “.
He talked about the need to change the policies that got us into the present state. Those policies derived from the objectives of the kind of governments India has had — extractive and exploitative. I will not repeat his arguments here as you may as well hear it as Rajesh said it in the conference.
Let me add my two bits here. India had just about started moving in the late ’90s. It was not sprinting but neither was it stuck in the mud. A modest degree of liberalization had given it the freedom to break out of the socialist chains that tied it down since independence. Though still mostly chained, India was at last limping along, and many of us saw a glimmer of hope. We earnestly prayed that the economy will be further liberalized. Liberalization — the act of making free — was after all the whole idea behind India’s independence from British Raj.
But it was not to be. The Indian electorate, in its infinite wisdom, dealt a serious blow to India. The UPA, led by the Congress took over India’s fate in 2004. Then when post the 2009 elections the UPA continued to rule India, India’s fate was sealed. Where before it was merely limping, the UPA crippled India. India was not moving ahead, for sure. But what’s worse, the UPA began dragging the crippled India back. Read what’s happening to India now and weep for all the unnecessary misery that has been imposed on it by the UPA.
It will be a long time before India can recover the lost ground. But first we have to stop the back-slide. It is hard not to despair but we have to keep hoping that better sense will prevail among the voters of India, especially the middle-class which has the most to lose. We have to wake up to the reality and not pretend that the UPA led by Antonia Maino aka Sonia Gandhi is not actually hell-bent on destroying India for the personal enrichment of Ms Maino and company.