women take a dip in the Ganges as a religious rite
Corruption Major Problems of PM Manmohan Singh
DELHI, May 21: The French have been the most regular practitioners
of the vaguely risqué art of cohabitation, that is, the
balancing of multiple centers of power in an administration.
instance, a socialist president and a conservative prime minister
who share power. The internal contradictions in this arrangement
are such that not much gets done: the various parties have too
many pet shibboleths that they would not sacrifice even if it
has just gone through a year of cohabitation, aptly summed up
by the phrase: 'PM, Super-PM, and CPM'. There is the nominal PM,
Manmohan Singh; the Super-PM, Madame Gandhi, who, constitutionally
speaking, has no power, but that is just the theory; and the Community
Party, Marxist, which threatens to pull down the minority UPA
government. This is hardly a recipe for success, and it shows.
amuses me that Manmohan Singh's name is never mentioned without
the descriptive phrase 'the architect of India's economic reforms'
being added to it, so much so that he should trademark it. It
reminds me of the fact that Benazir Bhutto's name used to similarly
carry an inevitable suffix, 'educated at Radcliffe and Oxford'
as part of the attempt to portray Pakistan as a 'modern, model,
moderate' Muslim country.
despite this pedigree, Singh and company (especially Finance Minister
P Chidambaram) have not been able to make much of an impact on
the economic front. Despite great expectations, they have accomplished
little in this full year of their rule. A pessimist would wonder
India is heading back to the bad old days of the Nehruvian Rate
of Growth of 3 per cent.
statistics of growth are not by any means stellar. The momentum
of the last few years of sustained growth is not there. The recent
Budget has been seen as uninspired, except when it comes to particularly
strange ideas about taxing corporate fringe-benefits and withdrawals
of as little as Rs 10,000 in cash.
are at least three problems the Singh government faces: credibility,
massive corruption, and Marxists.
Credibility: Singh is not a politician, never actually
having won any elections. Most observers suggest that he is a
decent man who understands economics. However, it is also abundantly
clear to the casual observer that he is holding the fort until
the next Nehru Dynasty scion, Rahul Gandhi, can be anointed as
prime minister. Therefore it is a little hard for Singh to act
decisively, for he can be over-ruled by any of Sonia Gandhi's
Massive Corruption: This is at two levels, one,
the ordinary variety espoused by various scam-ridden individuals
in government, and relating to money. This is a minor vice: after
all, it is only money, and all politicians anywhere in the world
are champions at feeding off the pork-barrel trough.
much more major vice is the degradation of institutions. The Election
Commission is under attack; the Supreme Court has come out with
a number of unfathomable rulings that a neutral observer might
say are ideologically slanted; the education system is being re-Stalinised;
and the bureaucracy is salivating over increased rent-seeking
for such inanities as the 'employment-guarantee act'. A government
that condones these is not helping the nation or the economy.
Obstructionism: And that too by committed
Marxists. They are making merry with their usual espousal of policies
guaranteed to perpetuate poverty: for instance, in obstructing
foreign direct investment, and in the current brouhaha over special
economic zones. By ensuring that restrictive labor laws will be
re-imposed on the SEZs, they have handicapped them dramatically.
wonder why they don't notice that their idol, China, does give
complete freedom to employers in their special economic zones.
And oh, while they are at it, India's Marxists should also be
asked to explain why the banned Survey of Chinese Peasants paints
an unrelenting picture of rural China as a poverty-ridden hell-hole
as a result of following precisely the same anti-poor policies
they, India's Marxists, espouse.
much for the economy, supposedly Singh's strong suite. Foreign
policy, as usual, is the Congress's worst area, as they have consistently
failed to realize that it is India's interests they are supposed
to look after, not someone else's.
current dispensation is especially into NAM and such-like; and
all the billing and cooing with Pakistan's and China's dictators
has produced practically nothing tangible other than increased
Indian trade with China. This sounds impressive until one realizes
that almost all the increased Indian exports to China are raw
materials, especially iron ore.
in addition to its outposts at Gwadar and in the Andaman Sea,
is rumored to be leasing an island from the Maldives. I have consistently
seen this rumor in enough places (latest in the Far Eastern
Economic Review, April issue) to believe there is something
to it. If this turns out to be true, what exactly will Natwar
Singh do? Invoke more bhai-bhai? All the bhai-bhai
with Pakistan hasn't produced any less by way of terrorism, one
might note in passing.
improvement in India's standing in the world has come strictly
by accident through economic growth, not through any plan by the
foreign policy establishment.
that the UPA government has successfully applied the brakes to
economic growth, things will revert to the status quo ante of
India's begging-bowl image. And incidentally, if progress has
been slow in the past one year, it will be glacial in the next
year as the Congress and Marxists fight it out in elections in
West Bengal and Kerala where they do not exactly cohabit. - Courtesy