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How self-confidence is the key to becoming self-reliant, writes Mark Tully – Columns


Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi mentioned self-sufficiency no less than 17 times in a nationwide broadcast. This has raised fears that India will resort to protectionism again, despite its terrible experience during the license-permit raj. At the time, protectionism protected the inefficient and the corrupt. But it does not necessarily have to have this result. China has practiced protectionism during its 30-year rise to become the world’s second-largest economy. But the Chinese have had the confidence to practice protectionism selectively and in their own way, to meet their needs, often ignoring global trends and the advice of the World Bank. Self-confidence has led China to become the factory of the world. India, after the 1991 reforms, followed the advice of the World Bank and liberalized trade when it should have focused on improving the productivity and competitiveness of its manufacturing sector and gradually lifting protections. .

It seems to me that India will not achieve self-sufficiency until it gains the confidence to leverage its unique assets, which are too often seen as liabilities, as it pleases. Take the example of the Indian population. It is generally viewed as a liability, an economic disaster rather than an economic dividend. But foreign investors see the population as a large potential market. Due to its lack of self-confidence to go its own way, India did not exploit this asset and therefore had to rely on imports to meet demand.

Sunshine is a good example of an asset that India has allowed China to develop. In 2019, India imported solar equipment worth $ 1,694.04 million. The auto industry is a rare example of international competition from India. The most successful company, Maruti, had the confidence to introduce a totally different working model, the Japanese model.

As politicians demonstrate all that is wrong with Indian democracy, naked greed and ambition that prank the party system, it may seem absurd to view Indian parliamentary democracy as an asset. Inevitably, many supporters of a presidential system argue that the current antics of politicians are further evidence that India would be better governed by a president than a prime minister. But India has a parliamentary constitution of which it can rightly be proud. It is a Constitution which is notable among postcolonial constitutions for its longevity which has been widely admired internationally. It should be a matter of pride for India. The Constitution also ensured stability, a prerequisite for self-reliant economic development. In its early years, the Constitution also proved its relevance. The famous historian of the Constitution of India, Granville Austin, ended his first book, published in 1966 with the optimistic words: “… endowed with the basic skills, attitudes and experience to create and work a democratic constitution, the Indians did not miss their appointment with dynasty. “But instead of taking pride in the Constitution, the institutions which support it were gradually undermined, and so in 1999, Austin has completed his second book on the Constitution calling for “deep social and economic reform.” Sadly, India did not have the self-confidence to make the difficult decisions to carry out these sweeping reforms, and c Herein lies the problem, not with the Constitution.

To achieve self-sufficiency, India must focus on these sweeping reforms. He must reform the bureaucracy so that the bureaucrats are not ridiculed as babus, and its policy so that politicians are not dismissed as opportunists. In managing its economy, India must have the self-confidence to learn from other countries, as Maruti learned from Japan. He has a lot to learn from the Chinese development model. But at the end of the day, India must have the self-confidence to chart its own course and chart its own path to self-sufficiency.

Opinions expressed are personal

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