India needs more than good policies to drive reform

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2019/1/6 20:48:43

India's general election later this year puts a big test for the present administration's reform push.

Since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014, of the 30 major reforms he sought, only nine have been completed. Six have yet to be started and 15 partially achieved, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies scorecard showed last year.

For a country with a quasi-federal system like India featuring a weak central government and diverse population, it's tough to implement reforms.

Although Modi has not yet fulfilled all of his promises, the report card for his administration is still rather impressive. Modi has launched a range of reform initiatives and pitched much of his term as a bid to make India a more attractive destination for global manufacturers.

India does not lack reform initiatives or policies, but implementation is often another matter. Part of the problem is the social and political climate. The central government's influence runs unevenly across the nation, with some areas influenced by powerful local organizations.

A nation has tens of thousands of interest groups, so no policy can please everyone. Achieving sweeping national reforms requires steadfast determination and a strong central government, neither of which India possesses.

A general election will allow the voices of different interest groups to be heard. Ahead of the election, comments by opposition leaders will receive more media coverage and public attention.

It will be difficult for the Indian society to have a strong centripetal force during the campaign period to push forward economic reform.

India is only halfway through its reform agenda. It would be regrettable if the country slackens its efforts for the reform push. Special attention must be paid to prevent this from happening.

The Modi administration has issued many policies involving economic reforms in recent years, but greater enforcement capacity will be needed.

A lingering question is how the country can build an efficient mechanism to ensure lower-level officials are diligent and proactive.

India's reform process will enter uncharted waters sooner or later, in which the emerging economy may need some political and institutional reforms to further accelerate its development.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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