It is neither fair nor perhaps useful to evaluate a government at the end of two years of a five-year term. The ruling leadership could well have consciously initiated a spate of schemes and programs for two reasons. First, to galvanize a somnolent administration and shake it out of its lethargy and inertia. Second, the plethora of schemes started in the first two years, would be expected to start yielding positive outcomes in the third and fourth years. Mr Modi, with his indefatigable energy and punishing 20×7 work schedule, has probably set his sights on the economy entering a period of robust recovery by 2018, thereby setting the stage for winning a second term at the hustings in 2019.
Consequently, these have been two very busy years for the Modi government. Some may even say ‘too busy.’ Even if 50% of all schemes achieve 50% of their stated targets, it would, I dare say, represent unprecedented progress over a five year term. For example, if all subsidies could be transferred through the JAM trinity, as alreadydone for kerosene and LPG, it would represent an enormous achievement both in fiscal savings and eliminating leakages. Therefore, there could be a method in this perceived madness of announcing a new scheme virtually each month in the first 18 months of Modi’s prime ministership.
However, the biggest surprise of these last two years has been the inability of the government in adequately communicating its purpose and progress of work to the public. To argue that this is a result of a media conspiracy is of course to loose the plot all together.
But now a mid-term correctionis needed in three critical respects. First, it is time to consolidate and focus on ensuring that all these schemes start yielding results sooner rather than later. NamamiGangewill become a source of derision for the government if the tanneries in Kanpur continue to pour their muck in to the Ganges and right next to Delhi the Sambhawali sugar factory’s molasses continue to pollute the river. Rhetoric needs replacing with results.
Second, the incremental approach adopted by Modi, is admittedly designed to improve governance and extract maximal benefits from existing schemes in a non-intrusive manner.However, incremental changes have not sufficed to excite the investors or create a buzz in the country about a likely economic take-off. The widespread perception is that of business as usual with uncertain outcomes. This needs to be urgently changed. The incremental approach has to be supplemented with bold structural reforms in some critical sectors like agriculture, exports, education, health and transport because here business as usual will simply be thoroughly inadequate. In its second phase, Modi government needs to change its image from one driven by a status quo loving bureaucracy to one that is driven be a bold vision articulated by Modi, supported by bold structural reforms. This alone will make sustained double digit growth a reality.
Third and perhaps most importantly, the Prime Minister must adoptemployment maximization employment as his predominant if not exclusive policy focus. Economic growth with scant additions in jobs will pose the danger of our demographic dividend getting converted to demographic nightmare. India needs to generate one million new jobs every month to simply absorb the entrants to the job market. This is an awesome task.The going so far has not been good and time is not on our side. Prime Minister Modi must set this objective of generating additional jobsas the litmus test of performance of his ministers and senior bureaucracy. The sooner every minister and secretary is asked to present his plans and achievements in terms of creating additional employment the better.
Forthcoming by invitation in the Organizer
Author is Founder Director Pahle India Foundation