File photo | Congress president Rahul Gandhi and former president Sonia Gandhi at the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, in New Delhi | PTI
File photo | Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi at a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, in New Delhi, 2019 | Photo: PTI
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East Asia No Model For India

Ruchir Sharma | The writer is the author most recently of ‘Democracy on The Road’
The Times of India

In this piece, Sharma argues that the East Asian economic model with its reliance on heavy investments and export manufacturing is unlikely to work for India. He argues that when these countries had similar per capita incomes as present day India, they were governed by autocratic leaders who didn’t have to focus on welfarism. In East Asia, helping the old and poor was seen as the responsibility of the family, and not the state, says Sharma.

He adds that even though these states started welfare programmes after the 1997 East Asian financial crisis, their expenditure as a percentage of GDP is still a modest 20 per cent.

East Asian labour laws were also more protective of corporations than workers. In India, however, Sharma notes, the reverse is true. He adds that any country with a per capita income as low as India’s cannot have both large-scale social spending and extensive investments to fund an 8 per cent growth.

Opening a window

Neelkanth Mishra | Co-head of Asia Pacific Strategy and India Strategist for Credit Suisse
The Indian Express

Mishra argues that one of the most interesting aspects of the budget is a rethink on the relative openness of India’s capital account. Now, he notes, the government can finance part of its fiscal deficit by selling bonds outside India. Earlier, such moves were not used to prevent India’s exposure to global financial volatility.

He also says that “the directive to SEBI to consider raising the minimum public shareholding limit from 25 to 35 per cent” should increase India’s weight in global equity benchmarks. This is likely to increase the foreign portfolio inflows to the country. While acknowledging that too much capital mobility might create problems, he says that “India can afford to take some calculated risks to attract the capital it needs”.

The search for a Chakrayya: on hunt for a new Congress President

Gopalkrishna Gandhi | Former administrator, diplomat and governor
The Hindu

Gopalkrishna Gandhi says that Rahul Gandhi’s statements that the new president should not be from the Nehru-Gandhi family and that the party needs to change fundamentally are welcome. The author makes a couple of recommendations to the Congress in this regard. First, the new president should be chosen as openly and seriously as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was chosen in 1938 and 1939. And second, he says the new president should not be treated in the same way as Netaji was by the then working committee.

The author also invokes Chakrayya, a young Congress Dalit worker from Andhra who died in 1947. On his death, Mahatma Gandhi remarked that he would have recommended his name as the leader of the republic had he been alive. The author says that the name Chakrayya has now become a metaphor for a faceless but dedicated Congress party worker, someone who is “uncompromised by power, unspoilt by flattery, untempted by office”. The Congress needs to find a similar worker who can emerge as a true leader of the party, says the author.

The Green Budget has a vision for a healthier India

Naina Lal Kidwai | Global commissioner for the Economy and Climate, and chair, Sustainability Council, FICCI
Hindustan Times

In this piece, Kidwai praises the government’s focus on water management and sustainability in the budget. She also calls the creation of the Jal Shakti ministry to look at water resources management and water supply a welcome step. She says that attempts to create a local infrastructure for measures like rainwater harvesting and ground water recharge can bring in private sector participation as well.

She also praises the creation of an investment platform to raise equity for social enterprises as a great move. Also, encouragement of women entrepreneurship through measures like Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency Bank, Stand Up India and self-help groups will create entrepreneurs in the renewable sector, says Kidwai.

Is the Budget Worthwhile?

Ashok V. Desai | former chief economist, Ministry of Finance
The Economic Times

Desai writes that the Budget has lived its life and deserves rebirth. Though Nirmala Sitharaman delivered one of the longest budget speeches, it was missing the expenditure and revenue numbers. He stresses the need to confine government finances to what is in the interest of the nation.

He proposes two houses of Parliament, one of which is elected by income tax payers in the proportion to the tax they pay and the other through proportional representation. He writes that the two houses will have to agree on the budget — people’s representatives to decide what to spend on and taxpayers to decide on the level of taxes and borrowings.

The long and tangled pipe

Vinayak Chatterjee | Chairman, Feedback Infra
Business Standard

Chatterjee writes on how ‘Nal se Jal’ or ‘Har Ghar Jal’ is a hugely ambitious programme as the last mile problem is one of the most difficult to solve in any utilities project, especially in a diverse country like India. He estimates that ‘Nal se Jal’ will have to cover 19 crore households. Pointing out the challenges, Chatterjee writes about how states need significant improvement in their water management practices. Further, India has just 4 per cent of potable water resources, is the largest ground water extractor with minimum recycling and nearly 30 per cent of the country faces desertification. Also, with water being a state subject, diplomacy will be key, he writes.

Hope is not a strategy

Renu Kohli | New Delhi based macroeconomist
The Financial Express

Kohli writes that the government has done the right thing in sticking to the path of fiscal consolidation. She, however, points out that the government should have undertaken revenue expenditure side reforms to free up funds to give a push up growth.

On tax estimates, she points out that the “overoptimism” on the revenue side could be negative for growth. She adds that a replay of last year’s “overoptimistic revenues and sharp expenditure compression with dire growth consequences cannot be ruled out”. She writes how government selling an aspirational goal of a $5 trillion economy should not forget that “hope is not a strategy”.

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