Since time immemorial, mathematicians have been using numbers to decode the cosmos. In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s universe of governance, the algebra of targets defines the instruments of achievement and the success of delivery. But even the best of arithmeticians could fail if their abacus and attention betray them at the last moment. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an exceptional numerical wizard whose winning calculations correspond to the mammoth number of votes he gets for the BJP in each election.
His formula of fortune is precise: fix the integers first and look for appropriate mechanisms subsequently. The Opposition failed to assess the success of Modi’s dream projects which resulted in its decimation in over three-fourths of India. Whether it is the distribution of cooking gas cylinders to women, distribution of loans to the farmers, constructing affordable houses, digitalisation et al, the PM ensured that all stakeholders come together to perform or perish.
For Modi, Thinking Big is a small part of his Monumental Mind. The main setback is that his gargantuan administrative and political apparatus lets him down when it comes to implementation. Modi was cautious when he said: “(The) goal to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2024 is challenging, but achievable, with the concerted efforts of states.”
He directed his first full-time female Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to make a bold commitment to the nation. And she did without blinking an eye. In her 135-minute maiden Budget speech, she announced that “from $1.85 trillion in 2014, the economy has reached $2.7 trillion mark. We can very well reach $5 trillion dollars in the next few years”. The words were a stark reminder to critics that the BJP under Modi’s leadership would add 250% more value to India’s economy than what the Congress and its allies did during the past six decades.
Though Sitharaman left the new road map to be drawn up later, $5 trillion is no fantasy for Modi. He told BJP workers that achieving this objective is the responsibility of the entire cadre and not the government’s alone. On the anvil is a five-year 21st century infrastructure drive promising rural-urban balance: to create storage facilities in villages, modernise cities, highways, railways, airways, waterways, IT, broadband and build 1.25 lakh km of rural roads.
Such a pledge is easier said than done. Economic targets in India are rarely met due to inbuilt inefficiency and vote-bank politics. Modi’s challenge is to expand the economy in real terms by targeting inflation and exchange rates. It is imperative that GDP grows by providing employment and not revenue-generating avenues for technology-led MNCs.
With a current GDP of $2.61 trillion, India is the fastest growing trillion dollar economy in the world. From a global ranking of 13 in 1980, it is expected to come fifth soon, overtaking Brexit-blighted Britain. India’s GDP grew by over 8% during the last quarter. If Modi momentum picks up speed, the target can be achieved by 2023.
Bloated unresponsive bureaucracy: In 2014, Modi promised to deliver Maximum Governance with Minimum Government. However, the size of both the Central and state governments swelled with no visible improvements in delivery. Ministerial expenses surged. The number of commissions, committees, expert panels and secretary level officers went up by 25%.
A large number got extensions or was absorbed as advisors in states and the Centre. Since their contribution is not measurable, they continue in their sinecures writing nonsensical notes and finding solutions for problems created by themselves. India has over 2.50 crore government servants: 1 official per 25 citizens. This excludes defence personnel and PSU employees. Around 10% of the total GDP is spent on their salaries and perks like official vehicles. Modi has begun the process of jettisoning junk, but he must speedily discard unproductive human assets that occupy space bigger than Maharashtra.
Decadent infrastructure machinery: As many as 357 infra projects, each worth `150 crore or above, have shown cost overruns to the tune of over `3.39 lakh crore owing to delays and other reasons, a report said. “Total original cost of implementation of the 1,362 projects was `17,03,840.01 crore and their anticipated completion cost is likely to be `20,43,024.21 crore,” it noted. Since the majority of these is related to the construction and expansion of roads and power plants, massive funds flowed in. But without accountability and monitoring, the tangible returns did not commensurate with the massive investments. It will cost the government 25% more to complete the same projects.
Environment: Cleaning up cities and providing fresh air to citizens will reduce India’s oil import dependence which has jumped to nearly 84%. The spend on oil imports in 2018-19 was $111.9 billion. A mandatory shift towards EVs is inevitable.Ease of living: An unhappy citizen contributes less for capital formation. The Ease of Living Index rankings are based on 79 indicators, which are grouped under the four pillars—institutional, social, economic, and physical. Physical services such as housing, water supply and sanitation are allotted the highest weight (45%) in determining city rankings.
Economy and employment together have been assigned a weightage of just 5%. Therefore, the government must ensure ease in getting quick justice, equal opportunities, moving without fear and accessing public resources like water, clean environment, quality health and education. Most of India’s small towns and villages lack basic facilities like potable water and primary healthcare. Mortality rates are high. In spite of numerous airports and aircraft, over 70% of Indians lack a dependable and safe public transport system.
Technology-labour conflict: Extensive technology has minimised job creation, affecting over 10% of
youth. The bulk of the $5 trillion economy should be from labour intensive projects. In 2019, Modi deservedly got Sabka Saath. His new economic dream should reach the winning number in 2023 by creating authentic Sabka Vikas, possible only by facilitating equitable distribution of the cake which is baked in India by Indians for Indians.