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India regains centre at Davos meet
For all naysayers, in India and abroad, who have criticised Modi’s Davos visit, the Prime Minister has captured the centre at Davos among top international investors and unstable governing coalitions abroad
The arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Davos world business summit has coincidentally timed with the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) declaration that growth prospects for India in the fiscal year 2019 is 7.4 per cent against 6.7 per cent in this fiscal year (2017-18). Here by hangs a tale of resurrection of India’s image in the global fora, which was in shreds three years back because of corruption taint.
But there is more to it than mere coincidence. The IMF has not been hesitant to be critical when necessitated by facts. It had cut down current fiscal year’s forecast when the Q1 of 2018 Gross Domestic Product touched the bottom of 5.3 per cent. And the uptake from this level to end the current FY at 6.7 percent and then on to 7.4 per cent in the coming financial year are based on the many signs of economic growth picking up.
The economic revival is mainly due to Government initiatives, like liberalisation of FDI rules, huge improvement in ease of business rules that pushed the rank of the country from 130 to 100, the highest ever ranking of 40 in the Global Competitiveness Index, the rise of the PMI and a huge stock market surge over the last three months with the sensex crossing the 35,000 mark for the first time.
Apprehensions of the political Opposition within the country and the perpetual critics of India abroad are no longer relevant; all that they did was to force the pace of fiscal reform and administrative changes and a regime that is even more stable after the recent State-level Assembly election. In business, expectations and outlook are more important. India has regained the global leadership in the GDP growth ranking. India is ahead of China and will continue at the head of global growth into 2020, the IMF forecast predicts.
A greater reassurance comes from the way the Prime Minister got invited to this meeting at Davos. It was not Modi who was knocking at the doors of world business summit at Davos. It was the other way round. Modi was not welcome when he was the Gujarat Chief Minister, early this century. Anti-Modi propaganda barrage had succeeded in projecting a distorted image of him.
But when the people of India as a whole endorsed his person and his vision from day one, it revealed greatness in making as against the earlier prejudiced portrait of him. It was Klaus Schawab, the organiser of the Davos meeting, who wanted Modi to address the audience of over 3,000 world leaders. The report from Davos says that the Indian Prime Minister echoed Mahatma Gandhi. “I Don’t want the doors and windows of my house to be closed. I want multi-national ideas and cultures to flow in. But I don’t want them to uproot me.” That was also the true vision of Indian culture.
Modi’s India is all set to return to the path of liberal trade and red carpet for investors, instead of the red tape that was the identification of India so far (the low rank in ease of business, the disappointing rank in global competitiveness index etc), which is gone. There is an existing political stability with democracy, freedom and growth in environment of basic freedoms. The Prime Minister did well to drive home this growth through democracy in his speech to the global business leaders.
Political leaders in India, who had been trying to attach the communalism tag to Modi, are now switching to other criticisms. In that category comes Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s letter to the Prime Minister, where he criticized the Prime Minister for the recent survey that shows 73 per cent of the country’s wealth to-be in the possession of just one per cent of the super rich people.
The Congress president seems to have forgotten that Modi has been the Prime Minister for just three years while the bulk of the time it is Rahul’s party, especially his mother and grandmother, who had been holding power. The Congress, especially its ruling family, is most responsible for the rich becoming richer in the first 60 years of its continuous rule (we can ignore the short interval of 1977-79 Janata interlude).
In any case, no sane person will expect the NDA to overhaul the economic structure created over 70 years to be done in just 3.5 years of another party’s rule even if god himself is to be in charge of the country! Economic theory, specifically would expect an accelerated change that generates a widening and strengthening middle class and slimming the agricultural casual workers and a migration of rural casual workers to more paying work in small towns and larger urban areas.
And that is what is happening in the country, the pace of which will be quickened by the latest Government proposals to launch massive construction projects, like 54 lakh rural and semi-urban housing for the EWS category, modern agriculture and creation of a national market for farm products.
One sign of success over the last few years is that horticultural output has exceeded food grain output on a national basis in the last three years, despite intervening droughts and irregular monsoons. Also, in the journey to become a fully modern nation, the Government is pushing and people are adapting to an internal digital shift in trade and
transactions, more intensive national road construction projects, opening of national waterways and total change in the railways network and airport construction linking urban centres at district level with airways.
Rahul Gandhi may be too localised to grasp the implications of these works in progress as he repeats the 70-year-old Leftist slogans. Not surprisingly, even the dyed in the wool Marxists are rejecting alliance with him to fight the Modi-led BJP. Interestingly, all these are happening simultaneously for Rahul, who is living a prisoner of the 1970s. May be his US tutors at Harvard and California failed to expand his limited vision, despite those secret disappearances from India last summer!
As the Indian Prime Minister was much sought after in distant Davos, many voices in the divided Opposition were visible on the national scene wanting to change the ruling dispensation, come 2019. Enthused by the Indian Prime Minister forcefully putting forward the case for continued globalisation and warning the international investors of the dangers of protectionism, even many of the Western Governments, like France, Germany, Italy and the UK, must be finding Modi’s stand music to their ears as protectionist forces in their countries are threatening political stability and economic progress back home in Europe. (Even in the European Union is straining at the tie up).
So the Indian Prime Minister has captured the centre at Davos among the top international investors and unstable governing coalitions abroad. Not so much investment he will bring from Davos but an entire policy rethink he has created there will be India’s gain as 2018-19 opens for business.
(The writer is a political commentator and a former BJP Rajya Sabha MP)
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