Political & Economic Uncertainty – Mr Manish Tewari, Minister of Information and Broadcasting

Mr Manish Tewari, Minister of Information and Broadcasting

First of all, I would begin by thanking Mr.Goenka for his extremely kind words, and yes, there is a certain sense of dejavu. I had the privilege of being part of the AIMA proceedings last year this time in Mumbai and I must say it was an extremely invigorating experience to interact with such bright and ignited minds from all across the country.I also take this occasion to congratulate AIMA on its Ruby Jubilee.

It takes a lot of perseverance to build institutions and I think, the successive leaderships of AIMA have persevered and have been able to create this into an institution, which is not only very widely respected but adds value not only to the managerial resources of this country but to the broader national canvas of interaction which in any democracy serves as a very important input to invigorate and enrich our discords as we try and move from one milestone to another.

If we were to go back to 1991, when the Indian economy started opening up or liliberalizing some people say under the force of circumstances, others would tend to believe that it was a logical conclusion or a logical continuation of the policies which have been put in place by the government of Late Prime Minister, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, from 1985-89.But 1989-91 were extremely cataclysmic years for the world. The Soviet Union was collapsing, east Europe was transforming and a lot of strategic thinkers around the world and in that broad sweep, including economists as well, were proclaiming and declaring that this was the end of history.

I remember the famous quote of Francis Phukiama when the Berlin wall came down. He wrote a couple of months after that and he said that this is the end of history. Therefore, you had two economic systems which had emerged from the debris of the Second World War, a system which believed in free trade, which believed in multilateralism, which believed in the ingenuity and the innovativeness of enterprise and then there was a system which believed that command economic model was possibly the best way to distribute the well fair income which people and nations generate. In 1989 or between 1989 and 1991, the later collapsed and therefore, in some senses of the word people who were proponents, adherence, converts, and for runners of the entire new liberal economic theory had the privilege and rightly so, of patting themselves in the back, that an economic theory which they had established but an alternative economic system had resulted in a political collapse and the reordering of the erstwhile soviet union eastern Europe. India also had to adjust both its economic and its foreign policies in order to keep those changes in order to be in sync with those changes and that consensus notwithstanding the facts that we had stable governments in 1996 or rather three unstable governments between 1996-98 that consensus has helped the field from 1991 and we are now in 2013.  In 2004 when the UPA government was formed we stepped back, we paused and we looked at the economic landscapes as it had evolved from 1991 to the April of 2004. We reflected and thought whether this economic model rarely includes everyone its broadest possible sweep and we came to the conclusion that while there had been wealth creations there was innovation which helped in developing Indian companies.

But many people were feeling excluded from that model of growth and therefore a recalibration took place which was that we must have growth but simultaneously and concurrently we must be accompanied by equity. The rural employment program, the right to free and compulsory education, legislations on forest rights, food security, land acquisition are some example of development programs. So if you put this whole monopoly of legislations in a certain perspective, it’s a truly transformative rights based entitlement infrastructure to bring within its fold  the empowered nation which the UPA government has been able to create over the past 9years.

Yes! There have been differences, there have been debates, and there have been very vigorous disagreements as to whether we have the ability to fund these ambitious programs. But when somebody in 2043 or in 2050s would look back at these years 2004-13 and I am reasonably confident that conclude that people who were interested in the affairs in the growth of nation laid the building blocks which ultimately insured that as we grow it is growth for all and not growth for few at the cost of rest of them. But this is not all; this is only a part of the story. The other story is that between 2004 and 2013, the Indian economy grew at an average 8.1%. I think those were the figures that RBI had released last week or week before. But on 8.1% average growth of rate over 9years especially when it was cradled by the great global economic meltdown, the arbitragethe, the leverage driven meltdown where you had iconic economic institutions tumbling like 9 pins.

I don’t think it has been a bad rate of growth. Therefore, to some extent if the UPA government can give itself an E for effort.The reason why I thought that this perspective is important was when because the performance of the government can be benchmarked on some parameters. And the first parameter which is important for any growth, any economic development any progress is political stability. Therefore in the mid nineties when the political instability used to be very much a part of the business. In the last 9 years, political instability is a term that has faded completely from the politics. The second benchmark is the social cohesion and if you look at the last 9 years in a perspective, people from the north east, from southern Indian cities by and large the country has remained socially cohesive. The third benchmark is internal security and yes undoubtedly we don’t live in the easiest neighborhood.

Balance if you take the regional situation into account, the benchmark of internal security by and by the nation has acquitted itself very well.Talking about the episodically green shoots of recovery which might be seen in the American economy at this; point in time. 8.1% is not a mean rate of growth.  Finally on the benchmark of the international relations, India today is recognised as the emerging poles multipolar world. Yes, when you try and transform a bipolar world into unipolar world and back to multi polarity, it has its challenges but in the last 9 years to some extent you know the G20 through the look east policies government, the American government.

China is able to position itself fairly effectively in the international arena. But that does not mean we did not face any challenges. In the last 2-3 years, India has been witnessed, to possibly the most corrosive discourse, which any democracy could possibly see.

When people talk about erosion of business confidence, when people talk about policy paralysis, I think it’s very important for stake holders in the economic process and specially who are very enlightened observer of both the political economic milieu to stand up and counted when you have blatant aberrations being put out in the public space.

With a great sense of regret I have to state that when economic numbers come down it’s not only the business that suffers but it also affect million of social development programs. So there’s a Domino effect which affects many areas. And if India has to really become a great power to a rising great power. If by 2030, the demographic dividend that China has enjoyed starts to vain when the generations of little emperor starts coming of age and India’s moment in Sun will arise. I think the only thing that stands in the way of India & that moment is the corrosive nature of discourse that we have been witnessing over the past 3 years. And that’s why it’s hugely imperative that while the government walks the extra mile, trying to unlock those bottlenecks, there have been difficulties like project approval, environment clearances but the genesis of this whole issue is the environment of suspicion then unfortunately you are left with an environment that is destined to grow at 4.4 % or 5 %. So that’s why it’s extremely imperative that as managers who deal with real life situations and not take a idealistic long view when you see apparent in the face aberrations which are going to impact the India growth story, I think there’s a moment where all of us collectively take a stand up & be counted.

The above article is an excerpt from the speech delivered by Mr Manish Tewari, Minister of Information and Broadcasting   at AIMA’s National Management Convention which was held in September 2013.

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