The GST she says was badly designed and badly implemented by the government, further jolting the economy.
Business journalist Puja Mehra has always been known for forceful discussions on economics and the state of the nation. She always has some interesting points to argue, and she does it forcefully, ostensibly because she had her arguments in place. She has now hit the stands with an argumentative book in which she dissects why recent governments - all coming to power on the back of some great expectations - end up doing a mishmash of economic reforms and eventually do nothing for the world’s second most populous nation.
That’s her conclusion, and she has her arguments in place.
In her book published by Penguin, The Lost Decade 2008-18: How India’s Growth Story Devolved into Growth without a Story, Mehra dissects why governments, including the one headed by Narendra Modi, veered away from the reformist paradigm. Mehra says the NDA did little to plan out its economic reforms, it did not realise that the reforms were for a billion plus nation and will sink it slowly, and steadily and not in a huff. But it was not done and worse, demonetisation was heaped on the masses like an unexpected avalanche. The nation, and its people went into a spin and the economy was jolted out of shape. The BJP and its ministers - especially FM Arun Jaitley - and other spin doctors have argued the issue of demonetisation as a great move but still failed to convince the masses.
Mehra says in her book that the move was an unmitigated disaster.
And then came the issue of GST, which she says was badly designed and badly implemented by the government, further jolting the economy. Mehra says the dual move - in many ways - totally derailed the economy, became subject of intense discussion and debate. The GST discussion continues even as the nation emerges from a gigantic election process. Mehra argues in her book that the 1990s economic reforms helped transform India from a nation of low-income to that of middle-income but India needs to liberalise the economy further, else the momentum will not be sustained.
In short, Mehra argues that India needs to sustain the GDP growth rate and should not let political events derail the process. The government, she says in the book, must have an appetite for small and quickly-done reforms and not necessarily wait for the big buck reforms.
Mehra says her research shows some of the biggest reforms process did not work - national food security law, land acquisition law, demonetisation or GST. She is unhappy that poverty alleviation programmes proposed by the C Rangarajan Committee and the alternative proposal submitted by Arvind Panagariya did not work with the government, and the masses. But Mehra does not call it a policy paralysis. She calls the decision making speedy but feels there has been a growing disconnect between policy tools and objectives. As a result, the policy response was feeble and the economy did not return to the high-growth path with bold reforms.