Tuesday, May 21, 2024

It’s the economy, stupid


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When it comes to information dissemination, too much dependence on official channels is fraught with danger. What the government wants to let the people know could be materially different from what the people ought to know. Governments indulge in the whitewashing of their image. In India, there evidently is an increasing emphasis on official statements, also for the fact that those in the media are neither willing to dig deep into official claims nor in a mood to challenge the establishment’s claims. They choose to course through placid waters. The result is the ‘manufacture’ of a feel-good environment. The opposition has not been showing the nerve to catch the government on the wrong foot. On election eve, the tall claims of the Modi government must, thus, be taken with a pinch of salt.
An instance is the national economy. The growth has been pegged at 6.5 per cent the previous fiscal – a far cry from the about nine per cent record during the Manmohan term. Ever since Modi took charge, India never achieved impressive growth. In between came the Covid19, on which is placed the blame for the deceleration of the economy; and we keep harping on it even now. While the establishment cites the growth of the nation into the world’s fifth largest economy, fact is also that the groundwork for this was laid since the early 1990s. Views are that Modi’s second term from 2019 has seen the lowest period of GDP growth since the early 1990s. Per capita income over the past 10 years “grew half as fast” compared to the UPA era; stock market returns are lower than in the previous decade; FDI levels are “the lowest” since the turn of the century; private capital investments “remain low” while the economy is driven by huge government investment principally in the infrastructure sector. Industrialisation suffered and job-creations fell majorly. Faced with a tight economic burden; household savings are at a 47-year-low, and private consumption growth is at the slowest level compared to the past 20 years, as per recorded comments in international media.
In normal circumstances, the scenario would be tailor-made for disaster. But, curiously, the people’s disenchantment with the government is hardly evident. The reasons are not hard to find. More than half the population is fed on free or subsidized food grains, keeping base poverty indicators at tolerable levels. That keeps tempers under control and the pain of the poor is not erupting into the streets. The real growth here is for the billionaires’ club or the one-million-strong super-rich populace comprising also the greedy politicians and corrupt bureaucrats. Modi’s agencies selectively targeted the errant, almost entirely his political rivals, and let others “indulge.”


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