By the time this issue reaches your hands, polling would have been over in most parts of India. With the results to be known by 16 May, the country should be busy looking at the new government and its policies. We suggest focus of the new government on the following issues:
One, recent years have witnessed omnibus cabinets. Coalition partners demanded large representation and thrust their nominees even against the wishes of the prime minister (eg. A Raja). The new prime minister should make bold to be decisive on this. The Janata government under Morarji Desai had just 20 cabinet ministers, almost all of them luminaries. The new prime minister should opt for a compact cabinet, that’s lean and mean. He should also invite specialists from outside the political arena.
Two, UPA II has received a lot of flak for poor governance. Several ambitious schemes were announced, but suffered tardy implementation. In well-calibrated schedules, the new government should take up projects and programmes and ensure implementation to targeted time schedules. The ultra-mega power projects of UPA I, for instance, was a brilliant plan to expand power capacity. Lack of effective planning led to the scheme not taking off on expected lines. Just one project, of the Tatas, took off the ground in ten years. It’s time for implementation
Three, most of the past prime ministers did not have experience in state administration. With powerful state satraps like Jayalalithaa and Mamata Banerjee, there is need for better consultation and coordination with the states.
Four, Central finances are not in great shape. With economic growth slowing down, tax and non-tax revenues have not been growing to the desired extent. Sharp attention is needed to accelerate growth, expand revenues and contain deficits.
Five, fiscal profligacy through massive subsidies and subventions needs to be checked. Over the last three decades public debt has ballooned resulting in huge costs of servicing the debt. For a decade from 1996, debt-servicing costs were higher than total tax revenues. This needs urgent attention.
Six, with just around three per cent income tax payers, the tax-GDP ratio continues to be low. The numerous tax exemptions need to be reduced. Efforts are needed to expand the tax base. A quick introduction of the direct tax code and the tax on goods and services should receive priority.
Seven, India has the potential to emerge a food bowl of the world. This must be tapped. Agriculture growth has averaged low. A bold plan to step up agriculture growth to double digits should be conceived and implemented.
Eight, despite endowed with large arable land and favourable agro-climatic conditions like the potential for farming round the year, the country is spending large amounts on importing edible oils and pulses. Productivity levels of agriculture are abysmally low. Unviable small land holdings continue to be a problem in introducing science, technology and management. The present laws need to be changed to provide for agglomeration of small land holdings. Punjab and Rajasthan allow leasing of land for 15 years and more without alienating land ownership. There is urgent need to implement the scheme effectively across the country encouraging corporates to lease lands over the long term.
Nine, reform of the judiciary needs quick attention. Time bound dispensation of justice should be ensured through handsome step up of allocation to judiciary. The power of prosecution still rests with the executive leading to a lot of abuse. This needs change. Reform of the police and internal security systems also needs quick attention.
Ten, huge sums are spent on importing oil and natural gas. The promise of large-scale production of gas at the Krishna-Godavari Basin has not been realised due to uneconomic pricing. A bold plan to tap the potential of KG Basin and also to step up exploration of oil and gas in a big way in other parts of the country deserves attention.
This list is not exhaustive but points to areas that need immediate attention to accelerate growth.