This is a guest post by Professor N. Natarajan form Chennai, India. He is a much respected accademician, who comes to us with deep work experience with the Government, Public Sector and Private Sector Banking and Consultancy. I value his views and wish to share his suggestions with the readers of this blog. India is no exception to the turmoil that is going on in the world and we too need to address a number of issues and I hope that this will generate some discussions.
In the current global financial crisis our government has to think originally and act accordingly. The British Government decided to buy into its banks instead of doling out cash. Its action has inspired the US government to follow suit, although its first knee jerk reaction was to bail out the creditors whose money was at risk due to the crisis of confidence.
The Government of India needs to respond meaningfully. With a pliable new Governor in the RBI, the government is announcing reduction of Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) of banks to put more cash into circulation. The magic wand of release of non-existant funds will do more harm than good and hasten our bankruptcy as a country!
India’s problems are:
1. Very high inflation, due to poor agricultural productivity.
2. A very large population living on the fringe of hunger. India ranks lower than Sri Lanka!
3. A highly weakened currency that is hitting a new low everyday due to the large import of Petroleum; excessive imports of consumer goods under the WTO regime causing extinction of small and medium scale industries in the last 3 years; and the very poor performance on the export front despite all subsidies and incentives.
4. Large-scale unemployment.
5. Wasteful non- plan expenditure of the Government.
6. A small, successful IT sector that has distorted the wage structure across the board and led to mindless squandering of money by the pampered executives on luxury-imported goods.
7. Very low awareness of our precarious economic condition even among well educated youth.
8. Our PM’s explanation that our problems are caused by external factors alone and the assertion of the FM that everything is hunky dory with our system are both wide of the mark. The problems listed above are very serious and pretty much our own making.
Instead of boldly informing the people of the problems, the Government is working overtime to prop up the stock market with the FM dying a hundred deaths with each collapse of the Sensex that has become a daily affair. The Government is aping the western countries and copying the solution of injecting cash into the market, with no tangible effect.
What should the government and the country be doing to tide over the crisis?
1. It should ignore the volatility of the stock market and end the obsession with its ups and downs. Its losses affect a small section of the population.
2. It should conduct a large-scale information blitz to tell the naked truth to the people. Long ago we had a PM who advised the entire country to go without dinner for one evening every week to overcome our shortage of food and dependence on doles from the US. He succeeded because of his sincerity to lead from the front by practising what he preached.
3. Government should immediately reduce the import of petroleum drastically, by restricting its use mainly for production of power and mass transport. Everyone should be made to follow the rule without exception.
Ø The use of petrol and diesel for private cars should be made prohibitive, so that people are encouraged to pool their vehicles.
Ø Measures such as vehicles with odd or even registration numbers should alternatively be off the road for 2 days in the week will enforce car-pooling automatically.
Ø Schools must insist on bussing kids as has been done in Bangalore and reduce the number of cars coming to drop and pick just one kid up.
Ø All gas-guzzlers with engines of more than 1600 CC should be garaged.
Ø Promote use of products grown, produced and manufactured from within a 250 kms radius from your place of residence.
Ø Escorts of 20 odd cars for ministers and other “worthies”—both central and state should be done away with.
4. Give a high priority and incentive for production of wind and solar power. Both have invaluable potential for reduction of pollution.
5. Launch an urgent program for using advanced technology for gasification of coal for use as fuel for producing power.
6. Forget the honeymoon of 123 Agreement with US and shelve setting up of nuclear power plants with a heavy outgo of foreign exchange and subsequent fear of sabotage by terrorists and cut off of fuel supply.
7. Make a blitzkrieg publicity appeal to every citizen and educate him why he should Buy Indian and use only locally manufactured consumer products.
8. Drastically reduce the import of finished goods and levy a heavy expenditure tax on people opting for imported goods.
9. Remove the Service tax, which has been a major cause of inflation
10. Drastically curtail Government’s administrative expenditure.
11. Pass an emergency law that industries facing economic problems should first reduce the wage levels across the board by a percentage before rushing to lay off staff. This was done voluntarily by Intel, the chip-maker.
12. In view of the financial emergency Government should take the lead and reduce the salaries of all its staff (commencing from President, PM, and MPs, right down to the level of peons). The Dearness allowance must be frozen at the current levels for all staff whose salary exceeds Rs.20,000 per month.
Shocking measures, tall orders, impossible to implement you may say. But then we are facing an extraordinary situation that demands emergency measures like these, not unlike wartime when a population automatically pitches in with self-discipline and control.
Difficult times call for tough actions and great sacrifices. If the PM and our leaders set an example, the whole country will fall in line. That is where the biggest problem is!