The time has come to demystify the cacophonic clamour for economic reforms being voiced by the international financial institutions, the Prime Minister and the Corporates. The Indian Government and the Corporates have enough funds for investment in India not to need foreign direct investment (FDI). The problem lies elsewhere. We have a big deficit on the current account in foreign trade and this puts pressure on our currency. This is sought to be made up through transfers in the capital account - remittances from abroad, FDI and foreign institutional investment (FII). FII is hot money that tends to move out whenever there is a crisis in the parent countries and also a perception that the Indian economy is not growing. Consequently the need for more lasting FDI in various sectors of the economy. However, it would be better to address the causes of current account deficit in foreign trade than seeking FDI.
The two main import items are crude oil and gold. If we could reduce our imports of both substantially then our economic position would be much stronger. crude oil imports can be substantially reduced by making a conscious effort to switch to electricity based rail transport for passenger and goods and cutting down on the huge road transport sector. the electricity required can be produced through bio-mass gasification, solar and wind energy. This is both technologically and financially feasible to the extent that we can gradually phase out the environmentally hazardous coal based plants also but unfortunately very little is being done in this regard. Secondly we have to carry out a huge awareness campaign to make people invest in financial instruments instead of hoarding their money in unproductive gold. We are at the moment the biggest importers and hoarders of gold.
To support the above analysis here is the break up of India's Imports and trade deficit in US billion dollars with their proportion of total imports minus oil exports in % in paranthesis for 2011-12 as given by the Reserve Bank of India - net oil imports - 97.6 (22.7), Gold and Silver imports 61.5 (14.3), trade deficit - 184.9 (42.9). There has been an increase in the trade deficit by 68.2 billion dollars from 2010-11 mainly due to 46.9% increase in oil imports and 44.4% increase in gold and silver imports. The agri imports were only 12 billion dollars and they were about 1/3rd of the total agri exports of 34 billion dollars therefore there is a healthy surplus in the agri sector foreign trade. The FDI was 48 billion dollars and the FII was 14 billion dollars for a total capital inflow of 72 billion dollars. This is to be compared with the remittances from Indians abroad which was 66 billion dollars. Now the annual savings of the accounted for Indian economy in 2011 was about 660 billion dollars leaving aside the correspondingly huge savings being made in the black economy. So it is fallacious to say that we need export and FDI led growth. All we need to do is to channelise the huge savings in the economy into investments in the proper manner - in sustainable agriculture and post processing and marketing of agricultural produce, development of rail much more than road transport which latter should be restricted to last mile and hilly areas only and development of renewable electrical energy on a massive scale. All these will also increase jobs in and efficiency of the economy. When agriculture and infrastructure are taken care of in this way the industrial and service sectors will also flourish.
However, since this will not allow the Multinational Corporations or their Indian corporate and political lackeys to make hay at the cost of the poor, therefore we have this false clamour for opening up the economy and allowing the former to loot at will. None of the proponents of the reform policy are able to explain why the seat of reform, the USA, has been witnessing a continuous downturn since the beginning of the new millennium and at present joblessness and poverty are at their highest ever levels. So also is the situation in Europe which is in the throes of perpetual crisis.
Elaborating on the strategy for economic revival outlined above, the 660 billion dollar annual investment in renewable electrical energy and electrified rail transport as opposed to road transport will replace oil based energy consumption and reduce the trade deificit. Moreover, the unproductive investment in Gold and Silver should be reduced through a widespread awareness campaign among the rich who are the main consumers of these commodities and also among the general public who follow this retrogressive trend set by the rich. These two measures will substantially reduce the foreign trade deficit.
Investment in sustainable agriculture and post production will increase incomes in the agricultural sector where 70% of the population resides. It is impractical to get this huge population into the service and industrial sectors because that would require huge investments which now even the developed countries are not able to make and so their industrial and service sectors are in crisis (the developed countries became industrially dominant economies on the strength of colonial and neo-colonial looting and that has now become increasingly difficult). Increased incomes in the agricultural sector will translate into higher consumption of wage and capital goods and services resulting in more dynamism in the industrial sector. Investment in renewable energy and rail transport will act as additional spurs to the industrial and service sectors. Investment in renewable energy through biomass gasification requires the mobilisation of communities to conserve soil, water and forests and then use the regenerated biomass to produce electricity through gasifiers. This will not only take care of the local needs in rural areas but provide excess that can be routed to the urban areas. All this requires industrial and service support and so will create jobs in those sectors also. Rail transport is aerodynamically more efficient than road transport and also due to use of electricity is envrionmentally much better than diesel guzzling road transport.
Finally it is a diabolical myth that the vast majority of the people in this country have benefited from the higher growth achieved since 1991. Study after study has shown that malnutrition and hunger has increased and India has continually slipped in the global rankings in this respect in the last twenty years and is at the moment among the worst affected countries even below sub-Saharan Africa.
The growth that India has witnessed has led to higher corruption and concentration of resources in the hands of a few to the detriment of the vast majority. The large sample consumption and employment surveys conducted every five years by the National Sample Survey Organisation under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation clearly reveal that if the nutrition norm of 2400 kcal per capita per day for the rural population is taken, then the number of people in rural areas who are unable to reach this nutrition norm has gone on increasing and was close to 80% of the rural population in 2010 when the last survey was conducted. This is primarily because the kind of growth that has taken place has led to a huge increase in the casualisation of the workforce on less than subsistence wages in both the urban and rural sectors.
The time has come to jettison the fraudulent American rhetoric of economic reform and strike out in new directions with genuine reforms for the establishment of a society which is socially, economically and environmentally just and sustainable. Once again it becomes clear that the Power of We is very weak as compared to the power of the Capitalists who are able to bulldoze their robber agenda through despite the obvious poverty and hunger that grips the vast majority in this country.