India and the goal of $ 5 Trillion Economy: Do we just sigh at the present status or do something about it?

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Dr Aruna (Limaye) Sharma’s latest book “Dancing towards the $ 5 Trillion Economy on a Holistics Beat” is dot on time, especially when global economies are grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and are busy reformatting themselves to take on the challenges that lie ahead.

This book, by a career bureaucrat, a 1982 batch IAS officer borne on the Madhya Pradesh Cadre, who has had a ring side view of how things shape and how policies are framed, crafted and implemented in a federal structure, first while serving Madhya Pradesh in various capacities and then as Union Secretary Steel and Information Technology, is an authentic treatise on the path that India should take to catapult itself into the position of primacy in the comity of nations.

Dr Aruna (Limaye) Sharma

The author begins on a note of optimism by asserting that the new economic balance  of  power, that we see today at the global level, has  given  the  country  a  chance  to  reclaim much  of  its  earlier  glory when  it  was  one  of  the  world‘s  richest  civilizations.

Book Review

Today, Dr Sharma observes, the vital  indicators  reflect  the  country‘s  potential  as  an  economic powerhouse. We  have  all  the  ingredients  of  a  resilient  society,  backed  by  strong  societal support  but  not  social  security,  a  conservative  economic  system  which  is  to  an  extent recession-proof  but  not  transparent,  and  a  great  talent  pool but  with  limited  opportunities for  nurturing  those  skills.  What  we  lack  is  the  right  approach  to  policy  making  and  the development  of  an  ecosystem  to  harness our  immense  potential. One  major  drawback  is  our  silo  approach  when  drafting  policies  for  a  sector.  This  has led  to  a  series  of  decisions  based  on  an  ad-hoc  system  of  governance. We  have  situations  where  laws  and  policies  are  made  more  to  address an  immediate  crisis rather than  through  a  holistic thinking  process.  We  see  a  lot  of  lag  between  the  pace  at which  new  business  models  emerge  and  the  response  from  the  Government,  which forms  policies  with  a  retrospective  outlook. Then there is also the knee-jerk  reactions  and  a  precedence-based approach. India‘s  position  as  the  most  lucrative  market  for  global  businesses  was  one  of  the  early signs  that  highlighted  its  potential  to  become  a  superpower.  This  prediction  was  based on  the  prowess  that  India  has  showcased  and  proven  in  terms  of the  ability of the country to  lead  the world  in  various  fields  such  as  manufacturing,  analytics,  education  systems,  innovation, engineering  and  its  diplomatic  outlook  (of  practicing  non-violence  and  not  being  an aggressor).

The author is forthcoming in stating that compared to most developed and industrialised nations, in  India, we have a situation where  starting  or  managing  a  business  is  hugely  dependent  on government  policies.  We  have  a  complex  administrative  process  to  be  followed  from opening  a  business,  to  setting  it  up  and  to  running  it. 

Based  on  this,  the  new Government  focused  on  Ease  of  Doing  Business  to  transform  its  role  to  that  of  an enabler.  Unfortunately,  the  results  have  not  been  encouraging  so  far, the author points out.

This  book  critically  evaluates  this  approach  and  its  pros  and  cons.   

While underscoring the  COVID-19  pandemic,  has further decelerated the  economic  growth  outlook, the author goes on to observe that it is  disastrous  since  India’s economy  was  already  on  a  downward  roll. What aggravates the situation more is the fact  that  the country’s biggest  asset,  the  youth,  is  likely  to  become  the biggest  liability as the number  of  graduates  and  the  job  opportunities  available  in  the country  are  massively  out  of  sync.  Government  came  up  with  some  solutions like Make  in  India,  StartUp  India  and  Skill India.  Most  graduates  looking  for  employment  were  encouraged  to  become entrepreneurs  and  promote  or  scale-up  frugal  innovation.  To  increase  jobs,  the Government  decided  to  promote  indigenous  production,  thereby  creating  more  jobs. Unemployment  and  illiteracy  were  also  addressed  through  Skill  India,  by  training  Indian youth  through  skill  development  which  was fully  sponsored  by  the  Government.   All  the  programmes  were  designed  to  address  the  key  problems  plaguing  India‘s  overall development  as  an  economic  superpower.  However,  the  underlying  policy  ecosystem on  which  these  programmes  and  schemes  were  based  remained  unchanged. 

Dr Sharma concludes by emphasising that it is time to take the bull by horns and make a paradigm shift to a holistic approach. The first challenge, according to her is to rein the sliding GDP and bring it back to the pre lockdown levels (which were not that great either). The next task is to stay on the upward curve to sustain the growth story of India‘s developing economy.

The challenge is huge. Figures given in the book to drive home the point are startling and enough to shake the nation out of every bit of complacency. In Quarter 1 of FY 1920-21 the GDP, as declared by NSO, is -23.9%. How long will it take us to get out out of woods? Dr Sharma asks.

Indicators of economic performance of July and August 2020 suggest we might have a contraction of about 12-15% in Q2 leading to India being officially in recession.

The powers cannot ignore the big question from the author: Do we just sigh at the status or do something about it?

Title: Dancing Towards the $ 5 Trillion Economy on a Holistics Beat, Price: Rs 1599

Author: Dr Aruna (Limaye) Sharma

Publisher: Indra Publishing House

Other Books and Papers by Dr Aruna (Limaye) Sharma

Resource Convergence Mantra Model (2008) and Impact of Recourse Resource Convergence in Policy Making Program Design and Execution (2014) released by UNDP. FAO has also published her work on food security. Her book U@Game Changer for Inclusive Growth for public representatives, has been bestseller and reference book for elected representatives. Her paper Post COVID Challenges: Need of UN to Metamorphose-Rediscover Its Priority and Functionalitiesis has been published by RIS Discussion Paper Series 261. Her article on The Samagra anti-poverty programme in Madhya Pradesh: Integrating household data, overcoming silo-problems and leaving nobody behind has been published in electronic version. It’s print version will come in Development Policy Review.

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