What India Inc. Wants From The Next Government

By Sunil Kumar

The endgame in the 2014 Indian elections is drawing near; formations are being made; and strategies planned. The pawns are the usual rag-tag bunch of party sycophants and us; the deciding factor; the people with the maximum power yet the greatest potential to be exploited; the normal citizen(In Kejriwal’ji’s words; the Aam Aadmi).

Ergo, Skepticism is a commodity easily available; so I want to stick to some positive thought; the light of discussion; if that brings about a certain clarity. As time passes; cities change in a progressive time lapse. The city’s commuting has certainly deteriorated; with more people than ever before. And before I get to the island of relative affluence; poverty is visible. The crassness of Mumbai and its hope has been reflected in millions of movies; so I don’t want to stress on this fact.

As the CNBC anchor Latha Venkatesh began with an apt summation of the current situation; the suitably attired honchos made their way onto the podium. Now; personal feeling; after hearing many of these discussions; there is a certain degree of uniformity I’ve come to expect from such gatherings. Despite the usual; there were certainly some new points that came out from the panelists. One of the points made about the country’s planning needs resonated with me; as he mentioned the amount that needs to be allocated to more basic priorities such as food; education and sanitation; that other people do not seem to mention.

Ajit Ranade from Aditya Birla mentioned sound macroeconomic fundamentals and ease of doing business as some important facts. An article I read recently mentions that our parliament spends 2 crores a day on proceedings; a lot of which as visible is spent in acrimony and mutual recrimination; apart from agitations on countless issues. Another important fact mentioned was decisiveness across the board; not just with one person; as most of our people are usually inclined to believe. This is a very important but elementary point; because when decisiveness rests with people across the board; from the country will justifiably be on a faster track to more holistic growth; in every state.

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The panelists also mentioned that the politicians are usually attracted to the low-hanging fruit; hoodwinking the public and making a quick exit. Reflective somewhat of the country itself; the valid assertion was the “project tiger” approach to manufacturing, in doing business and creating centers of excellence.

Although these newsbytes are bandied about in nearly every forum; the real test of the pudding lies in the eating; actual action. According to the panelists; there are good corporate citizens in the murky grime of the business world. When Latha Venkatesh mentioned that despite lacking the activism in the Indian setup; other countries have managed to get things done, Ranade countered that a vibrant engaged audience is the hallmark of a flourishing democracy. All of this sometimes seems counter-intuitive if our country only manages to weave webs of words; where people subscribe to the brand of infotainment; which is quite addictive.

Nearly all of the industry panelists mentioned the reckless spending on subsidies as not being useful to contain inflation. Correct targeting could be useful; if the demographics are obtained suitably. When I asked the panelists a specific question on other markets apart from the usual North America-Europe axis; Ranade responded that the idea was a good one; but he could not exactly grasp the intent of my query. What I wanted from the panelists was their consensus opinion as an industry group and their expectations from the government in terms of formulating a global policy; which does nothing substantive but announces a “Look East” or “Look hither” policy. Latha Venkatesh mentioned to me that the idea was constructive; and the panelists continued in their deliberations.

The panelists also mentioned that apart from the shifting of political power to the states; which has happened more recently; the critical need was economic independence. This is useful; as each state would then feel the need to showcase its own USP; and result in benefiting our lives in general. In the verbal barrage; another point mentioned was that the investors were looking for a pro-business government that brought with it a certain amount of stability.

Latha Venkatesh seemed to suggest that the country should not be averse to a third-front government; but in my opinion; this would be another fractured enterprise; leading the country to a little more chaos. What happens remains to be seen; but if there is a winner with a clear wide mandate; it will definitely be beneficial to the country. Arvind Kejriwal targeting the high and mighty has brought about a little change; yet the status quo more or less remains similar.

The panelists also mentioned that Chidambaram’s defence that the entire world was in a slowdown; hence the impact on India’s economy was untenable and that the country should get its act together.

With a 1.2 billion population poised to grow further; it makes logical sense that we should grow more than other places to lift more people out of the misery of woeful infrastructure; lack of public amenities, sanitation, bad primary education and abysmal poverty. A social crisis is already brewing; as the much-vaunted concept of “Hindu” fatalism has changed drastically; as a large proportion of the population in South Asia(every country) has been exposed to the greater cross-currents of the world. Explicitly; the television and the internet; if you got my drift.

To sum up; the event mentioned stability, decisiveness and predictability as three important characteristics in the greater game of Indian polity.

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