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Lessons for India from Singapore

When Lee Kwan Yew became Singapore’s first prime minister in 1959, its per capita income was $400. Today, it is $55,000. No other country has gone so fast from rags to riches. Yet in the Nehru-Indira era, Indian socialists viewed Lee with contempt as a neo-colonial puppet destined for humiliation and poverty. As things turned More >

Humans are genetically modified organisms

Green activists have long gained fame and fortune by campaigning against genetically modified foods, which they denounce as “monster foods” that can ruin traditional agriculture and decimate the human race. They claim scientists that splice genes from one organism into another are committing crimes against nature and creating Frankenstein monsters. This is a mix of More >

Start an Olympic-style competition for state governments

Many people wonder what Niti Aayog, the successor to the Planning Commission, will do. It will serve as a think tank, making policy proposals. But history shows that policy proposals not backed by cash are typically ignored. Nobody would listen to the World Bank or IMF but for the fact that their advice goes with More >

Kejri and NaMo are two sides of the same coin

Astrologers remain in high demand no matter how often they are proved wrong. That’s true of the media too. Those who failed to analyse or predict voter behaviour before the Delhi election were holding forth the next day on the implications for future elections. In the general election nine months ago, the BJP won as More >

The nuclear ‘breakthrough’ is mostly hype

Indian officials say the Obama visit broke a seven-year logjam in nuclear cooperation, opening the way for US firms to set up nuclear power plants in India. However, in Washington there is no jubilation, much caution, and some plain scepticism. Hope springs eternal, but the logjam has not yet been broken. The Modi-Obama meeting whipped More >

The new GDP data shouldn’t cause euphoria

Most analysts have wailed and moaned about India’s weak economic performance in the last three years. But suddenly, data revisions by the Central Statistical Organisation suggest that the economy has done pretty well, growing as fast as 6.9% in 2013-14 — against the original estimate of just 5%. Most analysts think the economy will fare More >

Ideas for a dream budget from Jaitley

I called Arun Jaitley’s first budget “a Chidambaram budget with a dash of saffron lipstick“. Jaitley made only minor changes from Chidambaram’s interim budget a few months earlier. BJP supporters said Jaitley had assumed office only in May, lacked the time for a radical overhaul by July, and so kept his powder dry for his More >

China needs democracy for next big leap

The IMF reckons India will grow by 6.5% in 2016, against China’s 6.3%. The World Bank estimates India will grow by 7% in 2017 against China’s 6.9%. Many Indians are rejoicing. Caution, please. First, we are light years behind China in absolute economic measures and may take a century to catch up. Second, China is More >

A tale of two ethnic cleansings in Kashmir

January 19 marks the 25th anniversary of the Azaadi (independence) uprising in the Kashmir Valley, leading to the ethnic cleansing of around 400,000 Kashmir Pandits. For some, this day heralded the rejection of Indian rule by protesting Kashmiris, followed by the bloody suppression of Kashmiri human rights by Indian forces (portrayed in the film ‘Haider’). More >

Ordinances bad for democracy but opposition disrupters are worse

When I wrote last week about the government issuing ordinances on coal auctions and foreign investment in insurance, this seemed a one-off tactic. But now ordinances look like they are becoming a standard Modi strategy to overcome opposition obstructionism. The last session of Parliament left Modi looking weak and hobbled. Opposition disruptions totally prevented the More >

Ordinance Raj signals the rot in democracy

Having failed to get Rajya Sabha approval for bills on auctioning coal blocks and raising foreign investment in insurance to 49% of equity, the government has issued ordinances to give both the force of law. Finance minister Jaitley says this should convince investors that parliamentary chaos won’t thwart economic reforms. Alas, foreign investors are aghast More >

A public spending spree without raising productivity is too risky

Chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian wants increased public investment in the country’s infrastructure to energise the sluggish economy. The problem: this would be risky right now, with threats looming of dollars flooding out of all emerging markets. The public-private partnership (PPP) model in infrastructure is broken. Many private infrastructure companies have huge, unpayable debts that More >

Global tremors: bure sitare can bring bure din

Narendra Modi’s first six months in office reflected “achhe sitare” (lucky stars) more than “achhe din” (good days). But luck can turn nastily. Suddenly, dark global clouds over Russia (and maybe even China) signal the risk of “bure din” (bad days) ahead. Is last week’s rouble collapse the start of a debacle like the 1997-99 More >

‘Make in India’ can’t be a policy, only an outcome

Narendra Modi has come to power by promising rapid economic growth that delivers millions of jobs. To achieve this, Modi has devised a ‘Make in India’ policy. Launched with a blaze of publicity , it seeks to make India a manufacturing giant and attract global investors. It aims to raise the share of manufacturing in More >

Why the public-private partnership model for infrastructure is broken

GDP data show manufacturing growing by only 0.1 per cent, and fixed capital formation stagnant. Rs 6 lakh crore worth of cleared projects are simply not translating into orders for machinery and construction. Lags alone cannot explain this. Let’s face it: the public-private partnership (PPP) model for infrastructure is broken. The government is trying to More >