Can India be First World? We dream of leapfrogging to First World status, here’s how to do it in real life
This is my article published by Times of India on 12 July 2017:
At a recent India Meeting in Switzerland organised by Horasis, the question was asked whether India can achieve 10% growth given the wide range of reforms underway, such as GST, bankruptcy laws, privatisation and digitisation impelled by demonetisation. Present was CII president Shobana Kamineni, who made some back-of-the-envelope calculations and suggested 10% may well become a reality.
But maybe we should ask an entirely different question – what will it take for India to become a First World nation? Such a question is about matters more important than mere economic growth. It is about freedom, rule of law, justice, separation of religion and state. Such a question can reset our expectations and start a meaningful conversation about what we want to be as a nation.
Our party, Swarna Bharat Party, was the only political party other than BJP and Congress invited to this conference. Perhaps our fledgling party’s reform fervour caught the fancy of Horasis chairperson Frank-Jurgen Richter. But more likely, Frank is merely responding to demands of international investors who are getting tired of endless bouts of fantasy and want some plain talk.
I joined with others in congratulating the Modi government on reforms. However, some Indian and foreign business leaders told me in private they have experienced no real change on the ground. Despite that, i asked international businesses to continue to invest in India, but with a large pinch of patience.
It is time for us as a nation to step back and look at the big picture. The facts that face us are not pleasant. Transparency International has ranked Indian governments as the most corrupt in the Asia-Pacific region. Our businesses, despite being one of the world’s best, continue to be let down by our governance system. We continue to rank close to the bottom on ease of doing business. We remain one of the least free countries in the world.
We do not protect private property. We do not have credible rule of law. The concept of justice is largely fictitious. There is very little infrastructure. Our school systems are dysfunctional. Vocational training is non-existent or of very low quality. And we continue to be one of the world’s poorest countries.
Our party wants to raise our expectations significantly. We believe that strategic interventions can fix India’s poor governance system and entirely rewrite India’s future. What should the Modi government do? In a nutshell, it should make our policy and governance systems incentive compatible.
Policies in India are not transparently designed and do not consider unintended consequences, implementation issues including strategic behaviour, or costs and benefits. We need legislation to embed a world class policy making process into every decision. Never again should a decision like demonetisation be taken without a supporting cost-benefit analysis to be followed by a full and transparent evaluation of the results.
Second, we need to redesign our governance system. Today, neither ministers nor bureaucrats are accountable. They see themselves as rulers. We need to invert this mindset and hold our servant – the government – to account.