19 April, 2021

It Worked For Us

India Shining, a story of accidents, from policy to crony capitalism.

T. Narayan
It Worked For Us

The story of India’s economic reforms is usually mistold. It begins with 1991 and Manmohan Singh as lead actor. This is a bit off. The real story revolves around two personalities and a population weary of politicians’ excuses for non-performance. The two personalities were Indira Gandhi and Dhirubhai Ambani.

The irony of India’s reforms saga is that it began around the same time as China’s in the early 1980s. But India’s wayward democracy mandated us to stumble along the way repeatedly while China’s autocratic leadership ploughed on with reforms, unmindful of political consequences. The huge gap between China’s turbo-charged growth in the last 30 years and India’s transition from a slow, secular rate of growth to a faster Hindu rate can primarily be explained by the democracy premium.

I have deliberately reversed the meaning of ‘secular’ and ‘Hindu’ rates of growth because the 3-4 per cent we were achieving before the 1980s was driven by...

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