Time to liberalise

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Time to liberalise

Friday, 29 July 2022 | Pioneer

Time to liberalise

The government must expedite economic reforms to boost growth and create employment

The rush for government jobs is directly proportional to the severity of the unemployment crisis. The severity has increased badly in the last eight years. As many as 22.05 crore applications were received from 2014-15 to 2021-22 for Central government jobs, but just 7.22 lakh people got them. This is one out of around 300 aspirants becoming successful. These figures have not been compiled by some think tank or private body which the government functionaries or Bharatiya Janata Party leaders can dispute; the government itself released these numbers in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

Therefore, no amount of spin or sophistry would make these numbers vanish from political debate. To be sure, there is nothing surprising about these numbers; there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that the situation is pretty bad. For a handful of jobs, any government department announces, lakhs, if not millions, of applications, are received. The intensity of the agitation against the Agniveer scheme was also partly because of the lack of job opportunities for the youngsters. Since the unemployment problem is real, the solution ought to be real; and this can happen only if economic growth is accelerated. It is here where the shoe pinches. The International Monetary Fund has estimated that growth in India will be 7.4 percent for this fiscal and 6.1 percent for 2023-24. For both years, these are lower by 80 basis points from the IMF’s earlier estimates. The international situation is badly hurting our economy, with higher crude prices, constrained supply chains, and general decline.

Because of these very reasons, the IMF has also lowered its global growth forecast for 2022 by 40 basis points to 3.2 percent. By 2033, it has pegged it further down, at 2.9 percent. “The outlook has darkened significantly since April. The world may soon be teetering on the edge of a global recession, only two years after the last one,” top IMF economist Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas wrote in an article accompanying the release of an update to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook report. Against this backdrop, India has to protect itself from not just external shocks but also the problems joblessness brings forth.

The only way out is the broadening and deepening of economic reforms, especially in areas, like agriculture and labor laws Thankfully, the Narendra Modi government has shown intent to do that. It has recommenced the privatisation process, and the sale of Air India is a testimony to that. It also brought three excellent laws to help the farm sector a couple of years ago but had to backtrack. Its emphasis on infrastructure will also help boost growth and development. Ditto with PM Modi’s attitude against the freebie culture. Therefore, now is the time to expedite reforms and translate a prudential mindset into policy-making and implementation. All this will accelerate growth and create jobs.

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