The winds of change are blowing through India and one does not need opinion- or exit polls to gauge the mood of the voter. The country wants to usher in the kind of political governance that is accountable, transparent, and performance-oriented.
The lacunae in our present governance and economic models have thwarted the aspirations of a billion Indians. Runaway inflation has eaten into the savings of the common man, lack of meaningful economic reforms has hurt business and industry and a slowing economy has led to job losses. Basic needs like health, education and a clean environment have remained unmet.
The Indian economy needs a complete overhaul and the No. 1 priority of the new government will be to navigate India towards a path of sustainable economic growth. It will have to embrace the aspirations of the common man and work on narrowing the gap between the privileged and the underprivileged.
To accomplish these goals, the new government will have to come up with new and innovative solutions to tackle the current challenges and create an enabling ecosystem that supports the development agenda.
To begin with, the government will have to focus on regulatory reforms that will improve the ease of doing business, reduce transaction costs and expedite approval timelines. We need to move away from over-regulation to a system of self-regulation. The regulatory process should be re-engineered to replace the inordinately lengthy, tiered approval system with time-bound ‘deemed approvals’ and ‘automatic approvals’. There is also a need to make regulations unambiguous and transparent so that their interpretation is uniform across the land.
FDI requires an environment of fast-track project clearance and unambiguous tax and compliance regulations. These measures alone can attract and augment FDI that can contribute to GDP growth.
It is time for a paradigm shift in administrative governance through increased application of smart IT platforms for e-procurement, e-tendering, e-documentation, etc. Several schemes to address myriad challenges have failed in the past because of a fundamental shortcoming: The governance mechanism to deliver these schemes is mired in inefficiency and unaccountability. This needs to be rectified. A good example is Tamil Nadu’s IT-enabled drugs procurement model that has ensured that its citizens get access to affordable, generic essential drugs. Such a model should be replicated throughout India.
Similarly, there is a need for a wider application of the Aadhar unique ID programme. Aadhar has the potential to provide a strong platform for e-governance and e-healthcare. The next government has the opportunity to build on the 600 million Aadhar cards and create a unique e-delivery model across a plethora of services.
Science and technology is of strategic importance to India’s future leadership. India needs to step up its investment in research and translational innovation. We must identify key areas in which to build world-class scientific and technological excellence, for example, genomics, nanoscience, analytics, synthetic biology, information technology, space technology etc.
Incentivising innovation and IP creation is important for India’s future growth prospects. Enabling entrepreneurs to propel ideas into sustainable businesses will add value to our economy in the long run.
The government should give R&D a boost by providing a 10-year tax holiday on products developed indigenously, provide tax breaks for venture funding, and allow zero duty on R&D equipment.
Promote Green Tech
The new government needs to leverage the power of biotechnology in promoting green technologies.
Energy independence must become a driving mantra to reduce our precarious balance of payments, which is so vulnerable to the vagaries of fossil fuel resources. If Brazil could achieve this through sugarcane-based biofuels, we can also aim to do so through newer forms of renewable energy, including solar, wind and biofuels that can light up energy-starved rural India.
Sanitation is another big challenge for India where only half the population has access to toilets. We need rapid and large-scale solutions based on bio-toilets that can eliminate the need for sewers, sanitation treatment plants and water. Innovative bioconversion systems can convert solid waste into renewable energy and fertilisers, eliminating landfills.