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India Is Slowly Evolving Into a Market Economy

India has come a long way since its independence from colonial rule in 1947. It started as a mixed economy where elements of both capitalism and socialism coexisted uneasily. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, was a self-declared Fabian socialist who admired the Soviet Union. His daughter, Indira Gandhi, amended the constitution in 1976 and declared India to be a socialist country. She nationalized banks, insurance companies, mines and more.

Gandhi tied Indian industry in chains. She imposed capacity constraints, price controls, foreign exchange control and red tape. India’s colonial-era bureaucracy now ran the commanding heights of the economy. Such measures stifled the Indian economy, created a black market and increased bureaucratic corruption. The Soviet-inspired Bureau of Industrial Costs and Prices remains infamous to this day.

India also adopted the Soviet five-year plans. A centralized economy emerged with the state controlling the media and telecom, financial, infrastructure and energy sectors. Even in seemingly private sectors such as consumer and industrial, the state handled too many aspects of investment, production and resource allocation.

Opening Up the Economy

In the 1980s, India took gentle strides toward a market economy and opened many sectors to private competition. In 1991, the Gulf War led to a spike in oil prices, causing a balance-of-payments crisis. In response, India rolled back the state and liberalized its economy. The collapse of the Soviet Union that year pushed India toward a more market-oriented economy.

Over the years, state-run monopolies have been decimated by private companies in industries such as aviation and telecoms. However, India still retains a strong legacy of socialism. The government remains a major participant in sectors such as energy and financial services.

After years of piecemeal reforms, the Indian government is again unleashing bolder measures. These involve the opening up of several state monopolies to private competition. They are diluting state ownership of public sector units. In some cases, they are selling these units to domestic or foreign buyers. In due course, professionals, not bureaucrats, will be running this sector.

The government’s bold move to privatization is because of two reasons. First, India’s public sector has proved notoriously inefficient and been a burden on the taxpayer. Second, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the economy shrink and caused a shortfall in tax revenue. Privatization is a way for the government to balance its books.

Read More at https://www.fairobserver.com/region/central_south_asia/sunil-asnani-kshitji-bhatia-india-market-economy-indian-economic-recovery-india-news-71041/

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