If anything is more heated than the oven-hot earth right now, then it has to be the Lok Sabha electoral battle which has just crossed its fourth phase. The gloves are off and political parties of all hues and ideologies are implementing every means – savoury and unsavoury – to woo voters in the last minute.
But what’s on top of us voters wishlist as we brave the searing heat to exercise our electoral franchise? Do the announced manifestoes of political parties align with our demands? Do we want something more?
Well, from our side here’s a list of do’s and don’ts for the next government on the economic front to ensure the nation treads a solid path to development in the next couple of years.
Firming export growth
Trade deficit is a big problem staring at the economy. The greater amount of imports (and oil import is mainly to be blamed for it) and much less quantity of exports has led to a yawning deficit to the tune of Rs 16,500 crore. Most unimpressive has been the merchandise export growth.
While most recently the implementation of GST is to be blamed for it, overall it is indicative of the slow manufacturing growth owing to regressive policies so far.
And even though recent reports show that the deficit has somewhat narrowed, it’s a long way before India can become a Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea, and an even longer, arduous way before a China.
Going forward, we expect our next government to curtail oil imports particularly by focussing on alternative, clean energy and promote goods manufacturing to lessen the trade deficit drastically.
Greater thrust on Make in India
The previous issue naturally brings us to the Make in India initiative that was launched with much fanfare. Aimed at fuelling manufacturing growth and subsequently exports by laying the basic groundwork, it somehow couldn’t live up to the hype.
While there have been certain bright spots such as traction gained in smartphone manufacturing, there still lies a lot of untapped potential. One such area which offers room for growth is the indigenous production of defence equipment.
Realising how important domestic manufacturing and trade growth is, political parties have already promised a few sops to the entrepreneurs. Those include easy credit to SMEs, startups and women entrepreneurs and simpler rules for conducting business, among other things. We just hope serious efforts are made to implement those.
Only then can India catch up with its developed Asian counterparts, namely South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia and others. Most importantly, this would create ample jobs, something the government has been grappling with for long.
Resurrecting the rural economy
Direct cash transfer to the poor farmers, subsidies and farm loan waivers can only bring in temporary relief. A Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana wherein subsistence farmers have been promised Rs 6,000 per year or the far-fetched Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) wherein the Congress has promised Rs 6,000 to the poor per month (!) (if it comes to power, that is) may or may not alleviate their miseries for the time being. What is certain however is that such schemes and subsidies will do little to uplift the rural poor and bring them on a par with us privileged urban dwellers in the long run.
Keeping the bigger picture in mind, we want our next government to funnel funds into building infrastructure and quality educational and healthcare institutes in rural hinterlands. Only then can the rural poor taste true development and be ready to grab opportunities elsewhere.
This would eventually wean away a large proportion of our population from farming and thus improve overall farm income.
Reduction in Non-performing loans
Former RBI chief Raghuram Rajan made it mandatory for banks to identify the non-performing assets (mostly corporate loans that stand little chance of being recovered) and provide against those. This drastically brought down profitability of banks and led to restrictions on their lending.
The situation exactly isn’t an ideal one and tackling it entails walking on a tightrope – while on one hand bitter pills are necessary for loan recovery (reports state over Rs 80, 000 crore have been recovered already through sale of assets mostly), on the other hand care must be taken that strict regulations do not stymie the economic growth. Going forward, we expect the government to limit the rise of NPA stock and ensure effective resolution of large stressed accounts.
Stronger action against economic offenders
If only we could get back the entire amount back from these unscrupulous economic offenders who are the 21st century equivalent of the notorious plunderers that pillaged our country hundreds of years ago! As per estimates Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi along with 29 other such willful defaulters have robbed us to the tune of Rs 40,000 crore.
Imagine what all could you be achieved with all that money recovered. Hence, earnest request to the next government to pull out all stops to retrieve the money and bring the offenders to books.
Ensuring no sudden jolts to the economy
Now coming to the don’ts, we sure don’t want any more self-inflicted wounds like the demonetisation. The sudden decision to ban high denomination notes brought untold damage to the economy, particularly the informal sector that mostly banks upon cash transactions and contributes substantially to the GDP. Its debilitating effects linger till date; underemployment and unemployment continue to dog those in the informal sector because of it.
Meanwhile, as per reports released by RBI, the bold move failed to achieve any of its lofty objectives such as weeding out black money and egging people towards the transparent digital transactions.
We would also want the next government to carefully introduce new policy decisions so that it does not have an adverse impact on the economy like the GST did.
No wasting of taxpayers’ money on useless fancy stuff
Last but not the least, we the honest taxpaying citizens of India want our money to be put into good use such as tackling poverty, malnutrition and climate change. We want it to be used for strengthening our understaffed, underpaid police force and our military.
Bear in mind, we are totally against wasting crores on statues big and small, useless fancy landmarks in the middle of dilapidated roads, on ads, SMSs and myriad other superfluous paraphernalia. In fact, dear politicians the best way to stay relevant and remain etched in the memory of posterity or to commemorate the great leaders of the past is by building schools, hospitals, lush parks, good roads named after them.