Improve efficacy of ‘Make in India’ initiative: This is Modi’s showpiece policy initiative and requires to be implemented in full gusto over the next four years.
Labour law reforms: Some minor labour reforms legislations have been passed; the tough part is still awaited.
Strong thrust on vocational education and skill development to maximise the demographic dividend: Focus should not be on number of people with imparted skills but on the quality and employability of those skills.
Allow foreign universities in higher education: This will have multiple effects, such as expansion of higher education opportunities for students and improvement in the skill quotient besides providing competition to domestic institutions.
Medical tourism: This will require a robust healthcare regulatory structure and government facilitating investment in the sector.
Implement a low-interest regime: The government can contribute by controlling inflation and improving the supply chain infrastructure. This will check structural inflation, and thereby interest rates, on a sustainable basis.
Introduction of GST: This will introduce efficiencies and provide an immediate boost to the GDP.
Clean-up aviation sector: The UPA government has unfortunately created a very high-cost aviation sector in the country. On most domestic flights, about one-third of the fare goes for airport charges and taxes. Air India has become one of the biggest white elephants among the PSUs. Repairing this mess will be a herculean task, but has to be done.
Development of urban areas and smart cities, with focus on affordable housing: This has many catalytic effects on the economy.
Effective visible steps in road building: The government’s proposed ‘Bharat Mala’ initiative is a welcome move since large-scale investment in road infrastructure has a multiplier effect on the economy, through sectors like cement, steel and heavy machinery.
Decongest ports wherever necessary: This is necessary to make our exports competitive and will allow Indian industry to compete globally.
Agriculture thrust: The farm sector is grossly unproductive with yields among the lowest in the world. If the Modi government is keen on big bang economic reforms with a long-lasting impact on the economy and society, agriculture is the place to begin.
The Congress party and the other opposition parties are all set to oppose every action by this government. This is very unfortunate but it is an ingredient of our democracy. Indians also have a despairing psyche, which has pushed the country’s ranking to the bottom quartile, despite the armies of educated, knowledgeable and intelligent people.
India needs good governance, with sturdy public, social and physical infrastructure, facilitating productivity and private enterprise. It needs a social infrastructure that can provide free universal education and health coverage, cheap public housing and old age security. When the Opposition parties oppose the land acquisition bill on the grounds of protecting farmers, Modi could easily take up the cause of the landless rural population which is estimated at 30 crore. In the ’70s and ’80s, India was part of the two-thirds of the world that was mired in poverty. China and some Southeast Asian nations have progressed, so this segment has shrunk to a third, with our subcontinent, Indonesia and Africa being major constituents. The 160-crore population of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar has a per capita income below $1,500. This is nearly a quarter of the world’s population, all in the same sea of poverty.
Internally, India has to provide more economic independence to the states and generate greater competition among them. This can have salutary after-effects: At least one or two states which follow more business-friendly policies could turn into ‘Tiger’ states like the Tiger states of the Asian region (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan). Their success would be infectious and other states would be compelled to follow suit. In India, where the economic status is reflected in a narrow pyramid, where there are fewer people who are more well-off than the majority, this perhaps is the only way to drive economic growth. Otherwise, populist anti-business policies will always be a resort of the Opposition and will find resonance among the dissatisfied masses.
The government must show some work in all areas of economic and social activity; action with immediate results is required. Modi came to power on the back of catchy slogans and huge promises. It is time for the slogans to change into a call for action.
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(This story appears in the 29 May, 2015 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)