Among the reasons why the US is rapidly losing influence within the international order is how a handful of billionaires have managed to corner the market on policy, just as they have in several other democracies. The only thing that Wall Street is interested in is money, and this is a trait that has been used comprehensively worldwide by the Chinese Communist Party, which has made Wall Street its handmaiden. $ 500 billion is the annual surplus earned from the US and $60 billion from that other large democracy, India. Despite what happened at Galwan, sales of PRC mobile handsets, electronic and even medical items increased. Much of this is because middlemen who facilitate such trade get greater monetary benefit from goods coming from China than they do from importing goods from other countries. Prime Minister Modi intervened during the shortage of oxygen caused by the second wave of the Delta variant of SARS2 and decentralised supply to include not just a few big producers but others. In the absence of a framework designed to import oxygen concentrator cores from Europe and assemble them in India (a relatively simple task if the regulatory system were not so complex), it is oxygen concentrators from China that filled the market.
It is not accidental that there exist so many regulatory hurdles to the Prime Minister’s vision of Atman Nirbhar Bharat from reaching its potential. Modi 2.0 has made progress but more needs to be done. The Delta variant second wave has for the first time dented the popularity of the government, which needs to go on overdrive to not just get back the earlier level of public support but improve on it. As a consequence of the modifications in policy carried out by the Prime Minister’s Office in March and April, more progress was made in three months than during much of the previous year. Changes in policy need to continue. Apart from the culture and traditions of India and the goodwill created by those f Indian origin, much of the respect and attention given to India is because of the country’s stellar economic performance. This must not be allowed to falter but must rise and rise even more. Only then will jobs get created to accommodate new entrants to the market and keep existing jobs going. India needs double digit growth for its own stability. Growth that is as low as 5-6% will simply not be sufficient. It is no accident that the economy is what the opposition has been focussing on, with former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram leading the pack in his harsh criticisms of the economic policies of the successor government to the UPA.
In terms of economic policy, Modi 2.0 has been a substantial improvement over Modi 1.0. During the first term, a government was cautious in its fiscal and monetary policies. Modi 2.0 has witnessed a significant improvement where such policy is concerned. Earlier, even when bold moves were made, problems in implementation diluted the initial impact of such measures. As a consequence, a shock was administered along with the boost intended by the Prime Minister. Shocks caused by the faulty implementation of bold initiatives need to be avoided. Implementation has to be as much of a game-changer as policy. In economic policy, there need to be changes that deal with the suffering that millions of citizens are going through as a consequence of the SARS2 pandemic. Incomes have fallen, jobs have been lost, several establishments and enterprises have closed down for good, and many who had taken loans to buy houses and conduct productive enterprise have been forced into default. The scale of the misery is huge and the response must be proportional. Households have had to pawn their assets and watch their savings get extinguished as a consequence of the impact of SARS2 in their lives and livelihoods. Banks in India have over Rs 150 trillion in deposits, and if the rates of interest and that of inflation are calculated, no additional income comes out of such deposits to those making them. In many cases, huge sums of money need to get spent on hospitalisation, and this has created insecurity among many. What is needed is for the Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank to ensure that enough is spent by them to protect the health and livelihoods of citizens. At the start of the pandemic, it was suggested in these columns that an additional expenditure amounting to 5% of GDP be set apart for each of the three years from the onset of the pandemic to the year that marks 75 years of freedom. This must be matched by a rescue plan for those whose livelihoods have been devastated by the Delta variant.