The Expectations from a New FM

There is no gainsaying the fact that the Pranab Mukherjee regime in the government was mired too much in contraversies and confusions of various types. Notwithstanding his tough posturing within the government and outside – also, inside the Parliament – he was a major contributory to the policy paralysis, governance deficit, widely believed perceptions of corruption in high places. Etc.

It would also appear that his inadequate expertise in matters of national finance and economy was compounded by the mediocre staffing in his Ministry. No proactive remedies were suggested and the frequent reactions to events were wholly unconvincing. When growth rate was steady, credit was claimed for national policy and leadership, when it began faltering, the alibii was ‘the global phenomenon’.

Even a brilliant economist Prime Minister fell in line with this thinking. Speaking of Mukherjee, The Economist says “His elevation might just shake India’s ruling coiliation out of its present paralysis”.

In this scenario, a unique opportunity has come the PM’s way to remedy the weakness in the economy and to face the electorate in 2014 with some measure of dignity and pride. It is no small luck that the PM is constrained to take over the finance ministry and to order its affairs without any inhibitions, whatsoever.

Only Mr.P.Chidambaram can lay any claim to knowledge of national fiannce. But, he should be worrying more about his own survival in politics.

Industries in India and investors abroad, are sure that the Indian growth story is not a freak but is one to stay. They mourn the total lack of a mentor who has authority to dictate policy changes and, see them through. This needs, besides political sagacity, the academic farsight that Man Mohan Singh has displayed before, for instance, in the case of the nuclear energy bill or, even the Kudamkulam nuclear power project. He can call the shots, and call, he will.

The PM has already – within hours of taking charge of the Finance Ministry – convened a high-level officers meeting and given them bold and clear directions on what needs to be done. He has pointed direction for major policy changes, investor friendliness and confidence building, clarity of tax laws, etc. He is also reported to be considering the induction of new advisors and executives who have proven record of performance at critical levels.

I would like to suggest to the Prime Minister’s consideration the following measures also:

  1. Along with the experts, he should also induct some young talent that can be groomed for future occasions, etc. Sachin Pilot, Rahul Gandhi, Jayaram Ramesh. These youngsters are well educated and widely acceptable and have a long way to go. The jinx of only septugenarians can manage national economy should be broken. After all, these youngsters have been educated in the best universities of the world.
  2. Another suggestion – I wish the PM takes this on – is tat the PM should attend the next Davos Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum with a strong contingent of bureaucrats and ministers - the younger they are, the better - and, participate widely in all the events and discussions. This will help to showcase the future governors of Indian nation. Also, it will send a strong message of trust and confidence to the international community of investors and industry. He should tell the world that ‘India Means Business’.

I have been involved regularly with Davos since 1994 and have seen only two Prime Ministers participate in the Annual Meeting - Narasimha Rao who attended in 1995 and Deve Gowda in 1997. Mr.P.Chidambaram was a regular while he was the Finance Minister. Pranab never bothered about it.

‘Seeing is believing’ it is said. Man Mohan Singh can, I am sure, charm the Davos community, with his utter simplicity, straight forwardness and deep knowledge of economics. To my mind, this is the only way he can retreive the lost reputation as an economist and a purposeful administrator. He has just a couple of years to do this.


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