Tuesday, July 15, 2014

कई बातें स्पष्ट कर सकते थे जेटली

नरेंद्र मोदी को प्रधानमंत्री बने दो माह हो गए और यह बिल्कुल स्पष्ट हो गया है कि यह एक 'मोदी सरकार' है। उन्होंने सरकारी दफ्तरों के शीर्ष पर बैठे सभी प्रमुख सचिवों से सीधा संपर्क स्थापित कर लिया है। वे उन्हें फैसले लेने और यदि कुछ गड़बड़ हो जाता है तो उनसे संपर्क करने के लिए प्रोत्साहित कर रहे हैं। सचिवों और प्रधानमंत्री के बीच मंत्रियों की दुविधापूर्ण स्थिति है, कैबिनेट के साधारण दर्जे को देखते हुए यह शायद अच्छा ही है। मंत्री तो खुश हो नहीं सकते। उन्हें रिश्तेदारों को नौकरियां देने की मनाही है। वे फैसलों में व्यक्तिगत हित नहीं देख सकते।
महीनों की बातों के बाद अब हम कुछ होता देखना चाहते हैं। यह मौका पिछले हफ्ते आया जब इस सरकार ने अपना पहला बजट पेश किया। मोदी ने वित्तीय अनुशासन कायम करने के लिए जरूरी 'कड़े' फैसलों की बात कही थी। ऐसे फैसले, जिनके कारण लोगों की नाराजी का जोखिम था। हालांकि, बजट में ऐसा कुछ नहीं हुआ। कड़े फैसले लेने का मौका सरकार ने गंवा दिया।
बजट में ऐसे भारत के लिए नरेंद्र मोदी का रणनीतिक विज़न कहीं नजर नहीं आया, जिसे तेजी से आगे बढ़ने और सभी के लिए अवसर निर्मित करने की जरूरत है। यह बजट तो ऐसा लगा जैसे यूपीए सरकार के पुराने नौकरशाहों ने तैयार किया हो, कि किसी विज़नरी नई सरकार ने। बजट में निरंतरता दिखाई दी जबकि जरूरत बदलाव की थी। वित्तमंत्री अरुण जेटली को अपने पहले बजट का इस्तेमाल पांच साल का विज़न रखने में करना चाहिए था। उन्हें बताना चाहिए था कि क्यों यूपीए शासन में आर्थिक वृद्धि आधी रह गई और इसे पटरी पर लाने के लिए कौन से कड़े फैसले करने होंगे। उन्होंने यह नहीं किया और एक बड़ा मौका खो दिया।
भाजपा ने इस साल फरवरी में पेश चिदंबरम के अंतरिम बजट के आंकड़ों को हकीकत से दूर और हासिल करने में असंभव बताया था। मगर अब जेटली ने उन्हीं आंकड़ों को स्वीकार कर लिया है। नई सरकार को बजट संबंधी खातों पर स्पष्ट बात करने का मौका मिला। फिर चाहे इसका मतलब ऊंचे वित्तीय घाटे को स्वीकार करना ही क्यों हो। जेटली के कुछ आकड़े उतने ही खोखले नजर आते हैं, जितने चिदंबरम के थे। करों से होने वाली अामदनी 17.4 फीसदी से बढ़ने की बात कही गई है, लेकिन इस पर भरोसा नहीं होता। जीडीपी वृद्धि में मामूली इजाफे से यह आंकड़ा 13 से 14 फीसदी (9 फीसदी तो मुद्रास्फीति प्लस 5 फीसदी वास्तविक जीडीपी वृद्धि) से ज्यादा जाने की संभावना नहीं है। फिर सालाना वित्तीय घाटे का 45 फीसदी तो इस वित्तीय वर्ष की पहली तिमाही में ही हो गया है।
भारतीय अर्थव्यवस्था के लिए यह असाधारण रूप से बुरा वक्त है। मुद्रास्फीति (महंगाई) तो बहुत बढ़ गई है और आर्थिक वृद्धि बहुत कम है। ऊंचा वित्तीय घाटा महंगाई की स्थिति को और भी खराब बना रहा है। इसके कारण निजी क्षेत्र निवेश करने से कतरा रहा है। चालू खाते के घाटे को तो वृद्धि ठप होने और सोने के आयात पर नियंत्रण रखकर काबू में रखा गया है। मानसून बहुत खराब रहने का अनुमान व्यक्त किया गया है। इससे कीमतें और बढ़ने की आशंका है। दुनिया की स्थिति देखते हुए कह सकते हैं कि कच्चे तेल की कीमतें भी अासमान छू सकती हैं। शेयर बाजार जरूरत से ज्यादा ऊंचा जा रहा है और यदि कोई बुरी खबर आई तो पूंजी बाहर जाने लगेगी और इसे धराशायी होते देर नहीं लगेगी। इस बजट में ऐसी सब आपात स्थितियों का अनुमान लगाकर इन धक्कों को बर्दाश्त करने की व्यवस्था की जानी चाहिए थी। इसकी बजाय बजट से वित्तीय संतोष झलकता दिखाई देता है।
हो सकता है मैं कुछ कठोर बातें कर रहा हूं और अधैर्य जता रहा हूं। क्योंकि यह सच है कि सरकार को अस्तित्व में आए सिर्फ दो ही महीने हुए हैं और उठाए जाने वाले कई कदमों में से ये शुरुआती कदम ही हैं। िवत्तमंत्री जेटली ने यह जरूर माना कि यह बजट दिशा देने वाला है। इसमें कोई विस्तृत ब्ल्यू प्रिंट नहीं है। नई सरकार को विज़न को साकार करने के लिए वक्त देना होगा।
बजट में कई अच्छी चीजें हैं। आधारभूत ढांचे और रीयल एस्टेट को वाकई प्रोत्साहन गति दी गई है। इन दोनों क्षेत्रों का संबंध निर्माण श्रम से है और इससे बड़ी संख्या में रोजगार पैदा होगा। महंगाई रोकने के कदम भी इसमें हैं। जेटली की जगह यदि मैं होता तो बताता कि कैसे यह बजट रोजगार पैदा करेा और महंगाई को काबू में लाएगा। ये दो मुद्दे ही तो लोगों के दिमाग पर छाए हुए हैं। यह मौका भी गंवा दिया गया।
‌मोदी और जेटली को पूर्ववर्ती सरकार की गलतियों से सीखना चाहिए और जोर देकर आर्थिक सुधारों का माहौल तैयार करना चाहिए। उन्हें लगातार राष्ट्र को इस बारे में शिक्षित करना चाहिए कि सुधारों और नौकरियों, आगे बढ़ने के मौकों और समृद्धि के बीच क्या संबंध है। उन्हें लोगों को बताना चाहिए कि स्पर्द्धा आधारित बाजार और नियमों पर आधारित पूंजीवाद ही समृद्धि का वाहक हो सकता है। उन्हें नियम कायदों पर चलने वाले पूंजीवाद और दोस्ती-यारी पर चलने वाले पंूजीवाद (क्रोनी कैपिटलिज्म) में फर्क बताना चाहिए। उन्हें बताना चाहिए कि सरकारी खैरात बांटने से नहीं, आर्थिक सुधारों से अच्छे दिन आएंगे।
अब अगले कदम क्या होने चाहिए? यदि यह सरकार वित्तीय घाटे को निशाना बनाना चाहती है तो इसे जल्दी से सार्वजनिक क्षेत्र की कंपनियों और बैंकों का विनिवेश शुरू कर देना चाहिए। अपना लक्ष्य हासिल करने के लिए यह विनिवेश के जरिये 60,000 करोड़ रुपए की राशि खड़ी कर सकती है। पिछली सरकार ने पिछले तीन साल में जो हासिल किया है यह उससे तीन गुना अधिक है। इसे अनावश्यक सब्सिडी की भी कटौती शुरू कर देनी चाहिए। जेटली ने एक व्यय अायोग गठित करने की घोषणा की है। इस आयोग को जल्दी रिपोर्ट देनी चाहिए ताकि जेटली सब्सिडी में कटौती से आधे साल में संभव बचत पर गौर कर सकें। मोदी की कैबिनेट को जल्दी से भू-अधिग्रहण के नए नियम बनाने चािहए, जिनके अभाव में बहुत से मैन्यूफैक्चरिंग प्रोजेक्ट अटके पड़े हैं। इसी प्रकार श्रम कानूनों के कारण औपचारिक नौकरियां निर्मित नहीं हो पा रहीं। इस सरकार को केंद्र में श्रम कानूनों में सुधार की शुरुआत करनी चाहिए (जो राजस्थान सरकार राज्य स्तर पर कर रही है)।
जेटली के निराशाजनक प्रदर्शन से भविष्य के वित्तमंत्रियों के लिए एक सबक है। पूर्ववर्ती वित्तमंत्री लंबे भाषण देकर िवस्तृत ब्योरे देकर मतदाताओं के हर वर्ग को खुश करने का प्रयास करते थे। जेटली ने िजतने भी मतदाता वर्ग की कल्पना की जा सकती है, उन सबके लिए छोटी-छोटी परियोजनाओं की घोषणा की। वित्तमंत्री को हर 100 करोड़ के उस प्रोजेक्ट के बारे में बताने पर दो घंटे बर्बाद करने की जरूरत नहीं है, जो वह आगे अमल में लाने वाला है। उसे तो आधे घंटे में सरकार का विज़न स्पष्ट कर यह बताना चाहिए कि किस प्रकार बजट इस विज़न को पूरा करेगा। सरकार के बजट को लोगों तक पहुंचाने का यह है राजनीतिज्ञ जैसा तरीका।

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

After months of talk, it’s go time for new PM

John Ruskin, the 19th century British art critic, once re marked that the greatest contribution that an aristocratic duke could make to the modern world would be to take a job as a grocer. This apparently bizarre suggestion goes to the heart of middle-class dignity -an idea that I identified in my last column to explain the significance of Narendra Modi’s victory. In our unequal, hierarchical Indian society, we need to correct our misguided notion about what constitutes a dignified life. Much like Ruskin’s Victorian society, Indians believe that dignity is not compatible with being a petty kiranawallah. When so many people work in shops, this prejudice is cruel and destructive -it cuts off decent, hardworking people from the respect of others and from self-respect.

Modi’s landslide victory invites us to be more imaginative in thinking about the nature of human dignity , to move from prejudice to a question. By electing a chai-wallah’s son, who affirmed the aspirations of the millions who have pulled themselves up in the post-reform decades through their own efforts into the middle-class, we are forced to challenge our assumption that selling vegetables is socially degrading. If an upper-class zamindar, who takes time off from his idle life of breeding race horses to stand behind a counter in the belief that supplying people with good vegetables at a fair price, or driving them to their destination in a three-wheeler, is inherently worthwhile, the prejudice might give way to a fairer assessment of human worth.

Ruskin is not only challenging how we judge shopkeepers; he also wants shopkeepers to take their own dignity more seriously . Modi’s victory has made us believe that: 1) anyone can aspire to middle-class status; 2) if one imbibes its values of thrift, ambition, industry and prudence; and 3) a middle-class society is a good society.

Narendra Modi has now been prime minister for six weeks and it is abundantly clear that this is a “Modi Sarkar“. He has established direct contact with secretaries at the head of government departments, encouraging them to take decisions and get in touch with him if things go sour. Ministers have an ambiguous place in this setup, which is probably a good thing considering the mediocre level of his cabinet. Ministers could not be happy -they have been forbidden to hire relatives or introduce personal considerations in their decisions.

Otherwise, this has been a period of welcome silence and calm after the din and clatter of the election. Now we need to see some action after months of talk. In one respect Modi should not be silent. He should learn from his predecessor’s mistake and insistently make a compelling political case for economic reform. He must keep educating Indians about the link between reforms, jobs, opportunities and prosperity . He needs to explain that only the competitive market (not giveaways) can deliver a middle-class society and that a rules-based capitalism leads to dignity, not crony capitalism. Unfortunately, he frittered away a golden opportunity to do this in the disappointing address of the President.

Modi has spoken about “tough“ decisions that are urgently needed to enforce financial discipline, and they risk losing popular good will. With this warning he has set the stage for a hard-nosed budget on Thursday. When it comes to price increases, he would do well to follow TN Ninan’s advice -take price increases in small bites and frequently, and avoid the fiasco over the increase in railway fares.

Achche din aane wale hain (Good days are coming), was Modi’s response to his victory.

Those few words carry a massive burden of aspirations but with a clear majority in the Lok Sabha and supremacy in his own party , he is the first Indian leader in a long time to have the freedom to act on his convictions. He is getting plenty of advice -the politico-bureaucratic system is trying to co-opt him, attempting to make him one of its own. He is being advised to be prudent, to make incremental changes and not unsettle the system. But he must not forget that an aspiring nation has elected him precisely because he is an outsider and wants him to shake up the system. So, he must not listen too much to others and follow his own dharma.

Friday, June 20, 2014

It Is All about Execution

Narendra Modi's defining qualities are a sense of purpose.

If there is one lesson we have learned about leadership in recent years, it is that we overvalue intelligence and undervalue determination. When choosing our leaders we betray an instinctive bias for thought over action even though history teaches us that great leaders were great doers, not great thinkers. Outstanding leaders have always had the qualities of resolve, purpose and determination in abundance, and this helped them to change the world. With a PhD from Oxford University, our last prime minister was probably the leader most generously endowed with intelligence and academic credentials. But he failed. He neither had the willpower to prevail over events, nor the ability to translate thought into action. Sickened by the drift and paralysis of the last government, the Indian voter has now chosen the opposite type of leader.

Narendra Modi's defining qualities are a sense of purpose, accompanied by attention to detail, and backed by plenty of grit and fierce determination. These are quintessential abilities of an implementer, someone who knows how to get things done. These qualities were on generous display during his election campaign and if he runs the country as well as his campaign we have good reasons to be hopeful. The answers to India's problems have less to do with new ideas and new laws and more to do with implementing old ideas and old laws. Modi reminded us of this truth time and again during the past year, and those who know him well have said the same thing-his strength lies in execution. It is time we had an executive in charge of our country, someone capable of delivering results. It is for this reason that I-a liberal, secular Indian who does not find Hindutva or BJP particularly appealing-voted for him.

Indians do well in strategy, lag in execution

McKinsey & Co, the respected management consulting company, discovered in a famous global study in the 1990s that high performing companies distinguished themselves by execution. Its data on India reinforced the bias for action. In its sample of 35 major Indian companies, based on interviews with more than 600 executives, it concluded: "While many Indian companies perform well on strategy, they are lagging in execution.

Foreigners sometimes remind us that Indians are bright. But they are too polite to add that they can also be 'over-smart'. Indians think and argue too much, see too many angles, and don't act enough. It makes hiring and recruiting talent particularly difficult, for we come out sounding good in interviews, and how do you separate the doers from the talkers? The gap between thought and action is so pervasive in Indian life that I sometimes despair if weak execution is, in fact, a deficit in character.

My experience as a practising manager and later as a board member or consultant confirms that while most managers usually achieve a reasonably robust strategy, they implement poorly. I am also associated with a private equity fund that has invested in many Indian companies over the past 10 years, and it has reinforced this conclusion: The best firms are not the ones with the best business model but the best execution ability.

The story of Narendra Modi's climb from serving chai to passengers on the railway platform of a sleepy Gujarat town to 7, Race Course Road illustrates many things, including his leadership style. As he rose in life to take on positions of increasing responsibility in the RSS and later in the Gujarat government, Modi was not content with laying broad policies. Unlike our previous prime minister, he did not abdicate responsibility for implementation to those below him. He surrounded himself with people with execution ability like himself, set clear, measurable goals, and created small 'implementation' teams. Instead of pronouncing on strategy, he got into the messy details of a project, monitored day-to-day performance, removing obstacles for those who were implementing it, staying close to them and motivating them. He recognised those who took initiative and risks, and punished those who played safe and behaved like bureaucrats. And he did all this without appearing to be interfering or micro-managing. Thus, he got fairly ordinary Gujaratis to do pretty extraordinary things.

I first heard Narendra Modi speak at Shri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi in February 2013, and it opened a window to his leadership abilities. It was his first speech in a long campaign to be prime minister, and he declared his ambition right away. Unlike coy Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party, who danced coquettishly around the subject, Modi sent an unambiguous message that he was hungry for the job. He was off to a head start, and his clarity of purpose was refreshing for the Indian voter.

Modi was also unambiguous about his specific goal-it was to gain a clear majority for the BJP. The chattering classes laughed each time he said it and thought he was mad. They did not know that impossible ambitions drive successful leaders. Managers call these 'stretch' targets, and their purpose is to rally troops around difficult tasks. Impossible targets have a way of motivating soldiers who forget their differences. They feel they 'own' the goal and the battle. Thus, charismatic leaders are known to achieve astonishing commonness of purpose among their subordinates-what business managers prosaically refer to as 'alignment'.

Great leaders are not nice people

Related to this, was another feature I observed about Modi's campaign-the importance of a unified team. Great leaders are not 'nice' people who seek popularity, and certainly not ones you would invite to a polite dinner party. Narendra Modi had to ensure unified command and had to get rid of rivals and sceptics, which explains why he had to marginalise L.K. Advani, Jaswant Singh and others. And why, at the same time, he had to move his most trusted lieutenant, the ambiguous Amit Shah, to perform the miracle of turning Uttar Pradesh around. And why, despite opposition from inside the party, he tied up with unsavoury, blemished politicians B.S. Yeddyurappa and Ram Vilas Paswan.

The word executive comes from 'one who executes'. The hallmark of an effective executive is good planning and attention to detail, which is an important lesson I learned at the company where I worked for many years, Procter & Gamble. (The other lesson was how to write a crisp one-page memo because you were not allowed a second page). Modi, as I have said, is an implementer, and hence planning and detail come naturally to him. What we saw on television was great oratory but behind the scenes was months of planning with dozens of karyakartas, who worked with discipline to orchestrate each event minute by minute.

Finally, Modi is a flawed individual, not unlike most of us. In his place, I would have expressed remorse a dozen times for the events in 2002, without of course, incriminating myself. I would have had a powerful think tank to feed me data, especially on economic and foreign policy issues. I could go on and on about his deficits. But at the end, his positive attributes clearly outweigh his faults. If there is one truth I would underline it is that without realising it, Narendra Modi seems to follow the British scientist Jacob Bronowski's advice. He believes that the world is not understood by contemplation but by action-"the hand is the cutting edge of the mind, as Bronowski put it.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Modi’s moment is about middle class dignity

If Indians won their political freedom in August 1947 and their economic freedom in July 1991, they have attained dignity in May 2014. This is the significance of Narendra Modi’s landslide victory. The hopes and dreams of an aspiring new middle class have been affirmed for the first time in India’s history. Modi has made millions believe that their future is open, not predetermined, and can be altered by their own actions. In a fine book, Bourgeois Dignity, Deirdre McCloskey explains that the same thing happened during the great transformation of the West in the 19th and early 20th century when the industrial revolution created a middle class that changed the master narrative of western societies.
The typical voter who elected Modi was not a Hindu nationalist. He was a young, middle-of-the-road person, who had recently migrated from a village to a small town. He had got his first job and his first cellphone and he aspired to a life better than his father’s. The stocky, selfmade , son of a station chai-walla inspired him with his message of development and governance, making him forget his caste, religion, and village. The young man became convinced that his battle was not against other Indians but against a state that would not give him a birth certificate without paying a bribe.
The chai-walla assuaged his other Indian middle class insecurities. Our young aspirer discovered that he did not have to speak English to get ahead. “If the chaiwalla can aspire to lead our nation without English, there is nothing wrong if I am uncomfortable in it,” he thought. “I too can be modern in my mother tongue.” When he witnessed Modi perform aarti on his television screen in a riveting performance at the Dashashwamedh ghat by the Ganga in Varanasi, he felt deeply moved. Suddenly, he did not feel ashamed of being Hindu. The “secular” English speaking intelligentsia had heaped contempt on his “superstitious” ways and had made him feel inferior and inadequate. During his long campaign of political theatre, Modi decolonized his mind and thus bestowed dignity on him.
Modi mentioned the word “development” five hundred times for each time he mentioned “Hindutva”, according to a computer analysis of his speeches by Dr Walter Anderson, a US state department official. For a young person who belongs to the post-reform generation, and who has risen through his own initiative and hard work, “development” is a code word for opportunity in the competitive market place that Adam Smith called a “natural system of liberty” . This system flourishes in Gujarat, and not surprisingly the state is ranked number one on the Freedom Index among all Indian states. The government in this system helps create an enabling environment that allows free individuals to pursue their interests peacefully in an open, transparent market. After that, an “invisible hand” helps to gradually lift people into a dignified, middle class life, raising living standards all around.
Underlying dignity is the freedom that reforms bring when economic decisions move from the offices of politicians and bureaucrats to the market place. When Modi said that we should make development a jan andolan, a mass movement, he legitimized rules-based capitalism (in contrast to crony capitalism). In this respect he is like Margaret Thatcher and Deng who made their people believe in the market. It was the job that a reformer like Manmohan Singh was supposed to perform. But he didn’t even succeed in selling economic reforms to Sonia Gandhi and the Congress party. Modi should learn from his failure and convert the RSS to his “development” agenda, marginalizing its Hindutva agenda. McCloskey explains that the same thing happened in the West in the 19th century when the narrative of middle class aspirations for a better life triumphed over all other narratives as people became comfortable with market institutions.
Unlike the mood of diminished expectations in the West, ours is the age of rising expectations in India. Having attained hard-fought dignity, the aspiring voter is filled with self-confidence after electing Modi. But he is also impatient and unforgiving. If Modi does not deliver on his promises for development and governance, he will not be shy to boot him out at the next election. The ball is in Modi’s court.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Modi shouldn't forget Fareed and millions like him

It has been an exhilarating month. We have marvelled at the sights and sounds of India's great election mela on our television screens. The image, most memorably etched in my mind is of a confident Muslim boy, Fareed, in a small town in Western UP. When the female interviewer asks his name, he retorts with a flirtatious smile, "Who wants to know?" He tells us proudly that the pucca street on which they are standing was a kaccha village road not long ago. As the camera pans, he points to three barber shops, two beauty parlours, an electronics store and an unfinished tower. "This is going to be our mall!" Fareed runs a small business delivering flowers to the big city nearby, but business has been rotten in the past two years; most of his friends have lost their jobs. "Do you think I'd be hanging around chatting... even to a beautiful woman?" She blushes. "That's why I plan to vote for Modi. Yes, I know, Muslim and Modi, but he promises jobs and growth."
It is because of Fareed and the million hopes of young Indians that I endorsed Narendra Modi in my last column . It brought lots of hate mail. BJP's supporters were offended that I had called Modi communal and they passionately tried to convince me, an unrepentant liberal, about the true meaning of secularism. Congress fans dismissed my column as 'paid news' . My intellectual friends were aghast - how could I have abandoned sacred secularism for profane growth? Since I had made enemies of everyone, I must have done something right. A friend in Mumbai tweeted despairingly, 'why can't we have growth and secularism?' That would be a no brainer. Alas, it is not on offer. None of us wants to give up secularism but if growth continues to fumble, it is secularism which will be endangered. History shows that right-wing extremism thrives during unemployment and disaffection. Yes, it is a risk to vote for Modi but it is riskier not to vote for him as he is our best chance for jobs, growth and the demographic dividend.
In less than two weeks there will be a new government. Going by the latest polls, Modi is clearly ahead. If the polls are right - which they were not in 2004 and 2009 - and assuming he is elected, his first priority should be to reassure Muslims that he is the leader of all Indians and his government will not allow the events of 2002 to happen again (as they haven't in Gujarat); he is also duty bound to protect minorities against the daily acts of discrimination, especially by functionaries of the state.
The next priority should be to forge an alliance with chief ministers, making them partners in governing India and bring about genuine federalism. Having been chief minister for three terms this should be a natural. This alliance will allow well-managed states to implement reforms rapidly that would take too long to enact in a fractured central Parliament. Arun Shourie has recently explained that Article 254(2) of the Constitution allows a state law to prevail over a central law provided the President gives assent (which means, in effect, Modi's government has to be in favour of it.) Once a few states begin to implement the reform, others will see the benefits and follow suit. A partnership with chief ministers will motivate the more aspirational states to focus on raising India's Doing Business ranking, and as India becomes more competitive, investors who are presently fleeing China for Vietnam, Thailand and Bangladesh might well add India to their list.
Modi should begin each day by remembering why he was elected by Fareed and millions like him: to create jobs and skills. Expectations are running high and he must cool them down, explaining the lag between investment and growth. Attacking inflation is equally important and there is no better ally than Raghuram Rajan. Modi should follow the recipe which has brought No 1 rank to Gujarat in economic freedom - focus on infrastructure, bring in lots of talented persons, free up space for private initiative, empower the bureaucracy, and deliver public goods brilliantly (water, roads, electricity, education and health). Finally, don't subvert institutions; respect them but reform them.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Secularism or growth? The choice is yours

This month’s national election may well be the most important in India’s history. Our country faces a limited window of oppor tunity called the ‘demographic dividend’ and if we elect the right candidate, prosperity will enter crores of lives. And in the course of time, India will become a middle class country. If we elect the wrong candidate, India will experience a ‘demographic disaster’ and the great hope of youth will turn into despair.
India’s opportunity comes from being unique ly young — the large majority of people are of working age. Such a demographic situation gener ally brings a surge in economic growth as gains to society from those in the productive age far outweigh the burden of supporting the old and the very young. The dividend typically adds two percentage points to per capita GDP growth per year, as many economically successful countries have demonstrated in the past.
We should vote for the candidate who has the ability to harvest the demographic dividend. He will achieve it by investing in infrastructure and skills training; cut red tape to encourage private investment; and eliminate unproductive subsi dies. This will create masses of new jobs. People in those jobs will consume more, which will give impetus to consumer industries. They will also save more, which will drive investment and growth. With more production, inflation will gradually decline. Falling fertility in the demo graphic transition will improve women’s health which will add to the workforce and improve social indicators. Higher income and lower sub sidies will improve government’s finances, mak ing it possible to invest more in education, health and welfare of the poor.
Who among the rival parties is best capable of delivering the demographic dividend? Certainly not the regional parties — they are mainly obsessed with local issues. The Aam Aadmi Party is con cerned with corruption and crony capitalism and has shown little interest in attracting investment or creating jobs. Between the two national parties the Congress is ambivalent. Its reformers under stand the power of the demographic dividend but they are usually trumped by a ruling dynasty that favours equity over growth, preferring give-aways to win votes from the poor. Although Congress new manifesto does speak of jobs and growth, it is a half-hearted attempt. Because of this ambiva lence, reforms and infrastructure building slowed in the UPA government, confusing investors and paralyzing the bureaucracy. And this led to a trag ic fall in India’s growth and rise in inflation.
That leaves the BJP. As an opposition, it has been a disaster. However, the BJP’s thinking in the past year has been dramatically transformed by Narendra Modi who is single-mindedly focused on investment, jobs, skills and growth — key ingredients in realizing a demographic dividend Modi has proven to be a consummate implement er, a rare skill among India’s politicians. His suc cess lies in giving clear direction to the bureauc racy, which could help him un-gum the system at the centre. Given clarity of purpose, the Indian bureaucracy is capable of high performance, as we saw in Narasimha Rao’s first two years from 1991 to 1993. For these reasons, he is our best chance to deliver the demographic dividend.
Modi is likely to reduce corruption as well based on his record. Those who think he will fail to manage a coalition do not give him credit for being a shrewd politician who has recently wrest ed leadership of his party. The BJP without Modi is an unappealing option; nor is voting for him vote for RSS’ social agenda. The RSS is afraid in fact, that its Hindutva programme might be marginalized by his economic agenda. But there is a clear risk in voting for Modi — he is polariz ing, sectarian and authoritarian. There is a great er risk, however, in not voting for him. It is to not create jobs for 8-10 million youth that enter the market each year. One per cent rise in GDP rough ly adds 15 lakh direct jobs; each job creates three indirect jobs, and each job supports five people This means three crore people are impacted by one per cent growth. Restoring growth to 8% is prize worth thinking about when casting one’ vote. There will always be a trade-off in values at the ballot box and those who place secularism above demographic dividend are wrong and elitist.

Monday, March 31, 2014

चयन का सही आधार

आने वाले कुछ सप्ताह में मैं मतदान करने के लिए जाऊंगा। मतदान बूथ पर मेरा सामना खामियों-खराबियों वाले उम्मीदवारों से होगा, लेकिन मेरे सामने उसे चुनने की मजबूरी होगी जिसमें सबसे कम खामी होगी। यहां सवाल यही है कि किस आधार पर मैं अपनी पसंद के उम्मीदवार का चयन करूं? सामान्य सी बात है कि मैं उस उम्मीदवार को वोट देना पसंद करूंगा जो करोड़ों भारतीयों के जीवन में संपन्नता-समृद्धि लाने में मददगार हो। इस संदर्भ में भ्रष्टाचार, महंगाई, सेक्युलरिज्म और आतंकवाद जैसी बातें भी अपेक्षाकृत कम महत्व रखती हैं। कोई भी भारतीय तब तक चैन से नहीं रह सकता जब तक कि सभी भारतीय अपनी जरूरतों को पूरा करने के संदर्भ में दिन-प्रतिदिन की चिंताओं से मुक्त नहीं हो जाते। सभी राजनेता गरीबों के प्रति अपनी चिंता दर्शाते हैं, लेकिन करोड़ों गरीब और निम्न मध्यम वर्ग के भारतीय गरीबी रेखा से थोड़ा ही ऊपर जीवन-यापन कर रहे हैं, जो अपने आर्थिक जीवन में सुधार के हकदार हैं।
सभी भारतीयों के जीवन में समृद्धि लाने के क्रम में मैं दो आधारों पर उम्मीदवारों का चयन करूंगा। इसमें पहला आधार क्रियान्वयन की क्षमता है। किसी काम को करने की क्षमता को मैं किसी विचार को हासिल करने से बेहतर मानता हूं। वादा तो कोई भी कर सकता है, लेकिन यथार्थ के धरातल पर उसे कुछ लोग ही उतार सकते हैं। मैं उस उम्मीदवार को वोट दूंगा जो विचार और क्त्रियान्वयन के बीच के अंतर को पाट सके। मेरा दूसरा आधार भारत के सीमित अवसरों से जुड़ा हुआ है, जो महज दस वषरें में खत्म हो जाएंगे। इस अवसर का आधार है जनसंख्या लाभ की स्थिति। यह एक तथ्य है कि भारत ऐसा युवा देश है जहां की अधिसंख्य आबादी कामगार वर्ग में शामिल है। जनसंख्या के लिहाज से जैसी हमारी स्थिति है वह हमें आर्थिक लाभ की स्थिति प्रदान करती है, क्योंकि उत्पादक वर्ग के लोगों की संख्या अधिक है जो गैर उत्पादक वर्ग को सहयोग देने की स्थिति में हैं। विश्व बैंक के मुताबिक लाभ की यह स्थिति प्रति वर्ष प्रति व्यक्ति जीडीपी विकास में दो फीसद का अतिरिक्त योगदान देती है। पूर्व-पश्चिम के सर्वाधिक सफल देश जनसंख्यात्मक लाभ से भलीभांति अवगत हैं। हाल के वषरें में चीन को भी यह उपलब्धि मिली है। मैं उसे वोट दूंगा जो जनसंख्यात्मक लाभ की शक्ति को समझेगा और उसके अनुरूप एजेंडा तय करेगा। इसके लिए बुनियादी ढांचे में निवेश करना होगा, कौशल प्रशिक्षण देना होगा और गैर उत्पादक सब्सिडी में कटौती करनी होगी। उद्यमियों के लिए निवेश का माहौल बनाना होगा, जिससे बड़ी तादाद में नए रोजगार पैदा होंगे।
गरीबों को सब्सिडी की नीति के बजाय इस तरह के कदमों से दीर्घकालिक समृद्धि आएगी। जब लोगों को रोजगार मिलेगा तो वह अधिक उपभोग करेंगे, जिससे उद्योगों को ताकत मिलेगी। इससे वह अधिक बचत कर सकेंगे, जिससे हमारे देश की पूंजी में इजाफा होगा। इसका असर आगे चलकर अधिक निवेश और विकास में झलकेगा। अभिभावक और कर्मचारी अपने बच्चों की शिक्षा और स्वास्थ्य पर अधिक खर्च करेंगे, जिससे भविष्य में हमें अधिक उत्पादक श्रमशक्ति हासिल होगी। अधिक उत्पादन से महंगाई भी नीचे आएगी। उच्च आय और कम सब्सिडी से देश की राजकोषीय स्थिति मजबूत होगी और सरकार तब शिक्षा, स्वास्थ्य और गरीबों के कल्याण के लिए अधिक काम कर सकेगी। जाहिर है हमें देखना होगा कि प्रतिस्पर्धी दलों में इसके लिए कौन अधिक बेहतर है। इसके लिए क्षेत्रीय पार्टियां उपयुक्त नहीं, क्योंकि वे मुख्यतया क्षेत्रीय मुद्दों पर केंद्रित होती हैं। वे धर्म व जाति के कार्ड खेलने में महारत रखती हैं, लेकिन आर्थिक विकास पर शायद ही बोलती हैं। आम आदमी पार्टी की मुख्य चिंता भ्रष्टाचार और क्रोनी कैपिटलिज्म है, न कि निवेश और नौकरियों का सृजन। क्षेत्रीय दलों और उनके नेताओं को वोट देना अपने मत को बेकार करना होगा, जैसे कि सपा के मुलायम सिंह, बसपा की मायावती और यहां तक आप के केजरीवाल को भी। दो राष्ट्रीय दलों में कांग्रेस के भीतर बैठे सुधारवादी जनसंख्यात्मक लाभ की शक्ति को अच्छी तरह समझते हैं, लेकिन वे कुछ कर पाने में असमर्थ हैं, क्योंकि सत्ताधारी वंश विकास का बहुत इच्छुक नहीं।
सोनिया और राहुल गांधी गरीबों को तत्काल कुछ दिए जाने के पक्ष में हैं, बजाय इसके कि नौकरियों और रोजगार के माध्यम से सतत चलने वाली विकास प्रक्त्रिया का इंतजार करें। उनकी प्राथमिकता सड़कें और ऊर्जा संयंत्र नहीं, बल्कि सार्वजनिक वितरण प्रणाली के जरिये खाद्यान्न वितरण, बिजली सब्सिडी और गैस सिलेंडरों में रियायत, मनरेगा तथा दूसरी कल्याणकारी योजनाएं हैं। इस नीति की वजह अधिकाधिक वोट पाने की मंशा है, लेकिन इससे विकास दर गिरती है, महंगाई बढ़ती है और दूसरी तमाम समस्याएं पैदा होती हैं। विकास और समानता की गलत नीति के कारण संप्रग सरकार ने सुधारों को रोक दिया और बुनियादी ढांचे पर ध्यान नहीं दिया। इससे निवेशकों का भरोसा भी टूटा। परिणामस्वरूप भारत की विकास दर नौ फीसद से गिरकर 4.5 फीसद पर पहुंच गई। इस वजह से मैं नहीं मानता कि कांग्रेस पार्टी जनसंख्यात्मक लाभ को समझने में समर्थ है। कांग्रेस संप्रग सरकार के काल में रुकी पड़ीं 750 बड़ी परियोजनाओं को शुरू करा पाने में भी समर्थ नहीं, क्योंकि सरकार में ही सत्ता के दो केंद्र हैं और हमारी नौकरशाही भ्रमित है। इसी का परिणाम अप्रत्याशित भ्रष्टाचार और अन्य नीतिगत अपंगताएं हैं। पिछले दस वषरें को देखें तो भाजपा ने भी रचनात्मक विपक्ष की भूमिका नहीं निभाई। इसने कांग्रेस के विकास विरोधी रवैये का सही तरह विरोध नहीं किया, लेकिन पिछले वर्ष से नरेंद्र मोदी के कारण उसकी सोच में जबरदस्त बदलाव आया है। उन्होंने विकास के एजेंडे के तहत निवेश, रोजगार, कौशल प्रशिक्षण और बुनियादी ढांचे पर ध्यान दिया। मोदी एक बेहतर प्रशासक और अच्छे क्त्रियान्यवनकर्ता हैं। वह विकास प्राथमिकताओं पर नजर रखते हैं, लाल और हरी फीताशाही को रोकते हैं और सेवा में सुधार के पक्षधर हैं। हालांकि केंद्र में गठबंधन के कारण उनके लिए यह सब आसान नहीं होगा, लेकिन उनमें समस्याओं पर जीत हासिल करने वाले एक राजनेता के सभी गुण हैं।
मोदी मेरे दोनों ही पैमानों पर खरे उतरते हैं। इसी कारण मैं भाजपा को वोट देना चाहता हूं। मैंने पहले कभी भाजपा को वोट नहीं दिया, क्योंकि उसकी राजनीति बहुसंख्यकवादी और हिंदुत्व के एजेंडे पर आधारित थी। यदि लालकृष्ण आडवाणी या पुराने लोग इसका नेतृत्व करते हैं तो भी मैं इसे वोट नहीं दूंगा, क्योंकि उनकी आर्थिक सोच भ्रमित है। मैं मोदी की एकाधिकारवादी और गैर-सेक्युलर प्रवृत्तिसे चिंतित हूं, लेकिन कोई भी अन्य पूर्ण योग्य नहीं है। मुझे विश्वास है कि अगले पांच वषरें तक 2002 जैसा कुछ नहीं होगा। मैं मोदी को वोट देने का जोखिम लेना पसंद करूंगा, क्योंकि मैं जनसंख्यात्मक लाभ को खोना नहीं चाहता। एक गरीब देश में रोजगार सृजन पहली प्राथमिकता होनी चाहिए। जीडीपी में एक फीसद विकास से 15 लाख रोजगार पैदा होते हैं और प्रत्येक रोजगार से अप्रत्यक्ष तौर पर तीन लोगों को रोजगार मिलता है और प्रत्येक रोजगार से पांच लोगों की आजीविका चलती है।