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Disillusioned? Top pro-Modi economist wonders if, like Raja Bhoja, NDA govt believes it is omniscient

Debroy with Modi in June
By Our Representative
One of the top-ranking economists, known to have gone extremely close to Narendra Modi after being forced to quit the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in 2005 for ranking Gujarat No 1 in economic freedom index, has begun showing signs of disillusionment with the Modi style of governance. Bibek Debroy, professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, first expressed his reservations soon after the Union budget was presented in early July saying, it has missed the “big picture of tax and expenditure reforms”. Now, he has declared, the new NDA government is nothing but the same UPA regime “with better implementation.”
One who traveled extensively across Gujarat and wrote a state government-sponsored coffee table book in 2012, “Gujarat: Governance for Growth and Development”, Debroy has said, the NDA is not an “infant trying to find its feet and learning to walk”. He underlines, “Missing energy, the Government increasingly looks aged and jaded and is riding one of the steepest anti-incumbency curves witnessed in recent times.” He adds, “This isn't about the Budget, or any one specific policy. The broad-brush umbrage is more insidious.”
Debroy finds the NDA government, in just about two months’ time, increasingly getting “cut-off from people, notwithstanding new interactive portals”. He believes, “If social media is an indication, there is a palpable sense of alienation and on specific issues, reactions are nothing short of vituperative.” As for the mainstream media it is still “relatively kinder and knives have not yet been unsheathed”, but he wonders, “Why has the Government and the PM stopped talking? Is it arrogance, complacency, or abode in an alternate reality?”
Warning that “honeymoons don't last indefinitely”, Debroy says, the NDA had “promised redesign of governance” to “revamping systems and institutions, not repopulating them with those who are now the favoured few.” Pointing out that this requires “shock therapy” and “not halting and incremental steps”, he wants the country's governance structures to be “completely transformed”, but “nothing of the sort seems to be contemplated.”
Dismayed that Delhi's chatterati has begun talking of a "bureaucratic capture", Debroy calls it “Stockholm syndrome”, saying it is “inexplicable” how new Modi ministers are succumbing to this phenomenon. “In item after item, there has thus been an emphasis on continuity and avoidance of disruption”, he says, adding, what comes off is, the NDA is nothing but the UPA with “better implementation”.
In fact, Debroy wonders if one should compare what is happening with the story about how King Bhoja discovered King Vikramaditya's famous throne buried under a mound. Anyone who climbed that mound seemed to become inordinately sage and wise. “That's just a story – climbing a mound or a throne doesn't make anyone wise”, he comments, adding, “Nor does becoming part of a government make anyone an expert on everything under the sun.”
Wondering why is the NDA government shy of taking any “professional advice”, Debroy says, he compared this with the year 1991, there was an entry of “high-visibility professional expertise through Manmohan Singh and Montek Singh Ahluwalia”, and “one sought advice from outside narrow confines of Cabinet and bureaucracy”. He asks, “Why has this Government stayed away from exercising that option? Like King Bhoja, does it believe itself to be omniscient?”

Business paper notices change

Meanwhile, a top foreign business paper has noted how economists like Bibek Debroy are noticing Modi’s “lacklustre start”, and have begun demanding “most reforms to build the economy. Commenting on a new book, “Getting India Back on Track’, co-authored by Bibek Debroy, Ashley Tellis and Reece Trevor, and reviewed in Financial Times, James Crabtree says, “India’s Narendra Modi won a thunderous electoral victory in May. His supporters predicted rapid change as the prime minister began unshackling an economy hobbled by graft and political drift. Comparisons with Margaret Thatcher of the UK and former US president Ronshleyald Reagan were bandied about.”
But “if his early months are an indication, such allusions already seem fanciful. Modi’s debut budget was cautious, verging on the underwhelming. He has demurred on potentially radical reforms, from bank privatisation to corporate tax reform. Last week, he single-handedly blocked a crucial global trade deal. Deeper confusions remain about his economic beliefs as well, which often appear to rest on little more than slight electoral slogans, such as ‘minimum government, maximum governance’”, the reviewer says.
Launched in Modi’s presence in June, the book, which is a collection of essays from prominent Indian academics, compiled by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a US-based think-tank, suggests what all Modi should do in order when “each year 35m tonnes of food, meant for the hungry, are either stolen or left to rot. Disputes over land mean $100bn worth of investment projects lie unfinished or are not started at all. Small industrial businesses are ensnared in more than 1,200 separate sets of regulation.”
It particularly wants Modi to “overcome such issues, while also taking on the country’s dominant culture of soggy, leftwing ideas. “Socialism has corrupted the deep structure of state-society relations in India. A slow rollback of socialist policies has been under way since 1991. But unlike the case in China since 1978, this shift in India has been hesitant, conflicted and furtive.”

Comments

Anonymous said…
Debroy... Find someone who has a magic wand and who can kill all ills of the country
Anonymous said…
OMG, we thought that was Modi, the Chest-thumper! Has he already lost his will?!

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