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The New Vice Chairman

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The selection of Rajiv Kumar as the new vice chairman of the NITI Aayog is a good occasion to review his paper published in this journal (“Making Reforms Work for Common People,” EPW, 16 July 2016). In this article, Kumar clearly argues that, for a developing country like India, reforms will work for the common people if special focus is given to the non-tradable sectors, like health, education and infrastructure. He also dismisses the relevance of the Washington Consensus for India.

In the context of non-tradables, I would like to refer to a paper that John Mellor had written with me as the co-author, “How Does Agricultural Growth Dominate Poverty Reduction in Low and Middle Income Countries” (Pakistan Development Review, Spring 2007). We had shown that poverty alleviation can be speeded up with accelerated growth of agricultural incomes and when the related benefits are linked with the non-tradables in rural areas. Again, rural infrastructure, rural health and rural education are key policy instruments for that. Furthermore, for faster agriculture growth, investment in research institutions is of paramount importance, which has been lacking in India for a long time.

Kumar’s paper explicitly discusses growing income inequality in India after the economic liberalisation. What he writes is also evident all over the world, including in the United States (US). Even in South Africa, despite the abolition of apartheid, inequality in income has increased. China and Brazil too are no exceptions. This is where the Washington Consensus has failed all over the world, including in the US. Donald Trump’s election and the support for Brexit in the United Kingdom are manifestations of this reality.

Hopefully, Kumar will be able to operationalise the theme of his paper published in the EPW by designing appropriate agriculture-centred strategies for the Indian government in the interest of the common man in rural as well as urban India.

Chandrashekhar G Ranade

Washington, DC

Updated On : 11th Aug, 2017

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