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Indian Reforms: Wishful Thinking

  • In the past couple of weeks, the Indian stock market has been seized by a bout of optimism. Sentiment has been driven by Dr. Manmohan Singh's statements on unleashing India's “animal spirits”, shortly after it became clear that he would manage the Finance Ministry, replacing Pranab Mukherjee.


    But is this just hope, or a reflection of changing realities?


    Personally, I don't believe anything will happen in the way of difficult reforms or other decisions. This is merely a PR and media management exercise, one that the Congress Party has perfected.


    When the Congress came to power in 2004, Dr. Singh promised to reform the economy and make the bureaucracy more accountable. Nothing happened! And the government conveniently blamed their alliance partners, the Left parties. They won the next election and still haven't done anything. Every stalled initiative – be it the Direct Tax Code (DTC), a unified GST, FDI norms, the Pension Bill, and many more are being blamed on “political realities”.


    But this is all eyewash. When the Congress has wanted to push things they have been able to. Remember the nuclear treaty with the US or Pranab Mukherjee's candidature for President? But they showed no stomach for defending a sensible railway budget or reducing subsidies and many such crucial initiatives.


    We need to remember that Pranab Mukherjee and Dr. Manmohan Singh are merely figureheads. The real power is Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and her predilections tend towards misguided socialism and populism, with little regard for economic sense. After all, she received her political grounding from none other than Mrs. Indira Gandhi.


    So expecting anything from this Congress government is purely wishful thinking. It's not going to happen (though some token measures will probably be announced).


    Indian stock markets may move up due to other factors like lower oil prices or FII demand or easing of the Euro crisis or such like. But not due to truly reformist actions from this government.


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