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.
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.
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.