The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government will present its third Union budget on 29 February, and Indian industry is hoping that it will do enough to revive investment and boost growth.
Over the 21 months since it came to power, the government led by Narendra Modi has struggled with the enormity of the task before it—it has to address India’s structural issues, such as capacity constraints that cause inflation, ensure the well-being of hundreds of millions of poor, and revive the economy, all at the same time.
It has also realized that while such things as exchange rates (specifically the rupee’s equation with the dollar) that make good campaign fodder when one is in the opposition, end up being irritants once one comes to power. In this time, investors and business people have realized the government isn’t as much a believer in free-market philosophy as they thought it was, not keen to reverse irrational tax demands, incapable of passing laws because it doesn’t have either a majority in the upper House of Parliament or a good relationship with opposition parties, and, just as sensitive to criticism as previous regimes.
Sure, there have been wins—corruption is down and ministries such as power, roads and railways have been outperformers—but the growing feeling among many people, including some of the BJP’s most ardent supporters, is that we haven’t seen this government’s best yet. With even the government’s worst critics accepting that the alternative, if there is one at all, isn’t the answer, everyone is hoping that things change. What follows is a wish-list collated from the most frequently heard complaints about this government:
7. Become more open to criticism
All criticism isn’t personal. One of the roles of the government is to listen to how the various stakeholders feel about its policies, and then respond, unless, of course, it believes in its own infallibility and that all its policies are perfect.
6. Understand that it is not always about black money
One of the myths actively perpetuated by the government is that its efforts are being blocked and criticized by people, including those who are worried because they have unaccounted money stashed away overseas.
5. Realize that meeting and listening to businessmen is not crony capitalism
The government can (and should) say “no” sometimes, but it should definitely be open to meeting and interacting with business people.
4. Articulate its economic philosophy
Just what is the government’s stand on subsidies? The job guarantee scheme? Multi-brand retail? It would be good to know.
3. Follow up policy decisions to ensure implementation
Just why is it that nearly a year after the ceiling on foreign holding in insurance firms was increased to 49%, several proposals to do this are stuck in bureaucratic limbo?
2. Build bridges with the opposition
The parliamentary elections are over. They happened in 2014. The BJP won. But to get business done, it needs to remember this, and build bridges with the opposition.
1. Rein in the taxman
There is no reason why the government can’t repeal retrograde tax laws.