The entire inclusive growth effort of the government was funded by the surpluses generated through the high growth rates seen under UPA-I due to the reforms unleashed in the nineties. There is also evidence that the lot of the poor changed for the better, even though marginally. The impact was muted due to leaky delivery systems, poor governance and lack of capacity in the government to either conceptualise or deliver on well-targeted interventions. Now all hopes are in the Aadhaar basket and we should all pray that it works and scales.
Listening to the budget speech this year took me back to the budgets presented during the 1980s when items like pencils and sharpeners were called out for duty changes. The reasons for UPA-II not being able to carry the reforms forward may be obvious. What, however is defying all logic is the steps proposed in the budget that may bring us back in the trap of 5% or so growth rate. When growth itself becomes a question mark – inclusive growth efforts would be the first casualty. Are we likely to shoot ourselves in the foot?
Panchayats were yet again forgotten in the budget. Mercifully Jairam Ramesh has offered Ministry of Panchayati Raj over 9 billion rupees from his Ministry’s budget. It is obvious that he understands the importance of PRIs that seems to have been lost on the mandarins of Finance Ministry.
With the incentive of gains from corruption becoming increasingly difficult to realize and the sword of RTI and a hyperactive media perpetually hanging on their heads – bureaucracy is becoming more cautious and therefore slower than ever, addressing problems that don’t exist while ignoring real issues.
This special issue of Inclusion brings together the analysis of why India has forever remained a work in progress for which drastic correctives need to be applied. Domain experts from across spectrum have contributed to this issue to share solutions to get back on track.
We are collectively snoozing the Indian economic growth story and if ever there was a time for a common minimum economic program – it is now.