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India needs the WTO

Mention of the World trade Organisation (WTO) bores most people stiff, as I discovered on returning after reporting on the ministerial meeting of WTO at Singapore. It excites only a few politically minded souls, who view WTO as a forum where rich countries hammer poor ones of the head. In fact, WTO symbolises the new More >

Why Corporate Scams are in the News

Some time ago, finance secretary Montek Singh Ahluwalia was asked by businessmen to do something quickly to revive sagging stock markets, which have fallen to a three-year low. He replied that whenever he opened the newspapers in the morning, he read about yet another corporate scam. In such circumstances, he asked, was it surprising that More >

The Limitations of Cheap Rice

Prime Minister Deve Gowda has promised to give 10 kilos of cereals to every poor family at half the market price. This may cost up to Rs 3,500 crore if fully implemented. This big fiscal burden will be mitigated by reducing the subsidy for the non-poor. Many readers will support the move. After all, is More >

I say, Chaps, I’m not a Common Crook

When politicians like Mr P Sangma and Mr Vayalar Ravi complained that judicial activism was getting excessive, I shrugged it off as the ploy of vested interests. I had a similar reaction when businessmen began to complain about raids on corporates. But now I find many middle-class folk saying the authorities have been too harsh More >

Owners versus Professional Managers

Many people wail about the ITC scandal.Who would have thought that such top class professional managers would behave like the most crooked Iwnias? If professionals behave like this how can they claim to be superior to owners who siphon crores out of their companies?’ This is a good occasion to review the old debate on More >

Do Business Crooks Deserve Amnesty?

Keeping a diary can be a dangerous pastime, as the Jain brothers will testify. Yet any businessman or politician worth his salt will tell you that it is simply not possible to operate in a control-cum-kickback raj without keeping meticulous accounts. The sums are large, the entries multiple, and colleagues have to be satisfied that More >

Growing Irrelevance of Land Ceilings

Should rural land ceilings be raised to enable corporate houses to start commercial farming? Prime Minister Deve Gowda thinks so, and so does Mr Jyoti Basu, but agriculture minister Chaturanan Mishra is dead against it. He believes the implemention of land ceilings and distribution of surplus land to the landless is a vital means of More >

The Locomotive and the Camel

The conventional wisdom in India has long been that the public sector is the locomotive of the economy, pulling the private sector along with it, so if public investment falters, so will private investment. Liberals like me disagree on the ground that (a) public investment is generally more inefficient, and so squanders scarce resources (b) More >

How to Check Judicial Activism

Dear Priyaranjan Das Munshi and Vayalar Ravi At a time when most people are expressing delight at judicial activism to catch crooks in politics, you have expressed dismay. You say the old harmony of relations between the legislature, executive and judiciary is breaking down, you want a special session of Parliament to discuss the matter. More >

Fiscal Deficits can be aBlessing

Readers are often told by economists that a high fiscal deficit is disastrous. In fact, given India’s political economy, high deficits are in some quick ways proving a blessing. Is India’s high fiscal deficit leading it into a debt trap? Yes, say reformers, including RBI governor Rangarajan and member-secretary of the Planning Commission Bimal Jalan. More >

Sense and Nonsense on Patenting Plants

Newspapers carried screaming headlines last week about a sensational new discovery. At a demonstration attended by top scientists, Mr Ramer Pillai boiled a handful of herbs in water with some chemical additives, and produced 600 ml of kerosene. Optimists suddenly had visions of India joining OPEC and becoming a big producer of oil from herbs. More >

Love in a Time of Morphine

Mother Teresa was an apostle of love. Now, love is a quality consistently undervalued and misunderstood in a world swayed too much by secular economics and anti-poverty schemes. Poor Indians need more money. But they also need more love. We will need love, long after all Indians have been raised well above the poverty line. More >

Exit Policy for Inefficient Businessmen

I welcome the coming era of hostile takeovers of companies. By the end of this year, new takeover guidelines, based on the Bhagwati Committee’s recommendations will be in place, ending the cosy security of inefficient and crooked businessmen who have long controlled companies with a modest shareholding. In many cases, the original promoters of a More >

Voters have not Heard of Economic Reforms

I am amused by the spate of post-election articles, some in The Times of India, denouncing the United Front for continuing with the liberalisation (which I regard as half-baked) of the preceding Congress regime. Some writers even claim that the election result was a vote against liberalisation, and accuse the UF of going against the More >

The Lessons of History

Five years ago, just after Mr Narasimha Rao came to power, I was asked by St Stephen’s College to debate the prospects of the new economic reforms with Abhijit Sen, a prominent Left-wing academic. I told the college that the financial crisis of 1991 had left India facing a great chasm which could not be More >