Now, How about a White Paper on Vision 2047 Rather Than on 2004-14?
Late last week, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) finally came up with a White Paper on the Indian economy. It was not about the current economic situation or a road map for the next five years but a frontal attack on the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime which was in power from 2004 to 2014.
 
A White Paper was an obvious idea for a government wanting to distinguish itself in every way from the past, which is why I had repeatedly suggested it in my columns during the early years of the NDA government. But why a White Paper in 2024 on what happened in 2004-14? Apparently because it “would have given a negative narrative and shaken the confidence of all, including investors.”
 
This is a bit rich since the NDA government has missed no opportunity to repeat the Paper’s key allegations: That the two UPA regimes were marked by corruption, high inflation, poor capital expenditure and project implementation, fiscal irresponsibility and policy paralysis.
 
As the drumbeat of the 2024 general elections grows louder, it obviously helps the NDA to consolidate all facts and figures that show the UPA (led by the Congress) in a poor light. There is little one can say to defend the UPA since the facts presented may even be understated (there aren’t many details about the rampant crony capitalism and widespread corruption in public-sector banks). Still, the timing and motivation behind the Paper are clear.
 
The highlight of the Paper is the economic mismanagement between 2009-2013. The UPA came back to power in May 2009, when the world was reeling from the impact of the global financial crisis (GFC). India was much less affected by the GFC than Europe, the US, and even parts of Asia.
 
Yet, the UPA government launched a massive stimulus package that “was way beyond the capacity of the Union government to finance and sustain.” As the Paper says, “During the GFC, India’s growth slowed to 3.1% in FY08-09 but recovered swiftly to 7.9% in FY09-10 … There was no need for the continuation of the misguided stimulus beyond one year.”
 
The result: For six consecutive years between FY08-09 and FY13-14, the ratio of India’s gross fiscal deficit (GFD) to gross domestic product (GDP) was at least 4.5%, rising to 5% in three of the six years. The revenue deficit rose more than four times from 1.07% of GDP in FY07-08 to 5.3% in FY09-10. Market borrowing shot up, but the funds raised went into unproductive use.
 
Not surprisingly, from “FY09-10 to FY13-14, the average annual inflation rate was in double digits.” It is here that one would like to pause and ask: Who was responsible for this gross economic mess? After all, the Indian economy was in the hands of a 'dream team' (in the hyperbolic words of a business paper)—Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram, Pranab Mukherjee, Montek Singh Ahluwalia (as deputy chairman of the planning commission), C Rangarajan (as chief of the economic advisory council), and Raghuram Rajan (as chief economic adviser to the ministry of finance).
 
In a Cabinet form of decision-making, it is not easy to pinpoint blame when something goes wrong. Blame gets shared and is diluted. In this case, however, it is easy. The economy was in the able hands of old war-horse Mr Mukherjee, who was powerful enough to chair 24 of the 39 groups of ministers (GoMs). He was finance minister from 2009 to 2012, the fateful period when mindless fiscal profligacy, crony capitalism, corruption, scams, inflation and high interest rates led the economy to a 'fiscal precipice', according to the White Paper.
 
When things got out of hand, Mr Chidambaram replaced him. Mr Mukherjee was a pillar of the Congress in every decade, starting from the Emergency of 1975-77 to the 'crisis'
caused by the economic mismanagement of 2009-12. Yet, stunningly, a decade after the evidence of such gross economic mismanagement, when the NDA returned to power for a second term, the Narendra Modi government awarded the Bharat Ratna to Mr Mukherjee in 2019.
 
A Different White Paper
 
Under the NDA, inflation has been controlled, fiscal prudence has been maintained and capital expenditure has risen dramatically. Infrastructure projects that were proposed 60 years earlier have been completed and new ones conceptualised and built. Hence, the need to dig up old economic corpses is baffling. If the NDA is confident about its performance, why not have a White Paper to present a road map for the coming 10 years, much like the Chinese five-year plans?
 
Eric Li, a China expert, says while the West thinks China is opaque, the big China picture is always clear. One only has to read the five-year plans to know exactly what is coming—which sectors, which industries, and in which location. “If you look at the history of China’s five-year plans over the last several decades, 85%-90% of the plans get carried out as planned,” he says.
 
This is what India needs now, instead of a politically motivated document on what happened about two decades ago. Since the Modi government has announced a dozen mega initiatives with actual allocations and substantial progress on the ground, it would have been easy to put it all together in one document, with specific targets and deadlines mentioned.
 
Since this White Paper ends with the statement, “Amrit Kaal has just begun and our destination is India, a developed nation by 2047,” it is only fair to map how this would roll out.
 
(This article first appeared in Business Standard newspaper)
 
 
Comments
adityag
2 months ago
The easiest thing in the world is to nitpick. And politics is part of a democracy, like it or not. If I were part of a political party, I'd also get my hands dirty. No such thing as "clean politics". H L Mencken summed it up well.

I don't think even Berkshire Hathaway can come up with its own white paper for 2047. A monkey just outperformed it in the last decade or so. Nevertheless, it's better to have good internal systems to be robust over the long-term, which Berkshire has (and certainly the BJP as an organisation). But only the markets (electorate) can decide their fates. A famous person once quipped (and to paraphrase it): In the long run we'll be dead.

IMHO, the problem with Indian politics is the lack of cooperative spirit while playing the dirty game. A weak opposition coupled with a judiciary that has started to sidestep its duties by giving "opinions" (which often goes against certain judicial pronouncements and common sense) are my greatest worries. Also, wokeism.
iaminprabhu
2 months ago
Mr. BASU, once coming LS Elections are won with 400+ seats supported by Majority of Hindustan, the Budget in JULY 2024 will surely show us all next 5 years of direction, plan towards 2047 Developed Nation.

However the way DYNASTY FAMILY PARTY messed up our nation's growth & MISSED GLOBAL opportunities in their 60 years of MIS(rule) its imperative to educate the Current generation on the same, so WHITE PAPER has put facts on Parliament table & in front of Common people.
sathya2011
2 months ago
The reiteration of failures by erstwhile regime may only help in consolidating their position. People do not bother about the vision for the next decade and that may not give any electoral dividends. Hence this decision.
Pragna Mankodi
2 months ago
White paper was needed for calling out white lies being spread by the opposition - mainly Congress. The government seeking third term with confidence has a right to call out the lies of UPA. However, the suggestion for a paper on the roadmap to 2047 is good. I suppose, it will surely come after elections.
parimalshah1
2 months ago
White paper for 2047 is a great suggestion.
amodi
2 months ago
That may not be a good tool for befooling when we have already estranged our five year plans. We can claim providing 10 Crore tap connections but not speak of the water quality being provided which may expose us.
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