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Business-Government Accommodation

Reciprocal consent characterises the mutual accommodation of government and big business today.

It might be an exaggeration, but nevertheless with a kernel of truth in it, to state that much of what the Indian state decides today in the realm of economic policy is strongly influenced by big business. It does not then come as a surprise that the crux of what the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) has to say in its Economic Outlook, 2011-12 comes from its “structured interaction” with a section of the representatives of big business. Predictably, delays in forest and environmental clearances, among other grievances, are stressed, but has not the cabinet reshuffle of 12 July – dismissed, in some circles, as a damp squib – taken care of that? On the very day that the PMEAC released its report, the union finance and commerce ministers met a section of the so-called captains of industry and asked each of them to submit the five most important proposals that they would like to include in the government’s policies.

Now, a number of the “captains” who had been invited are already either on the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry (PMCTI) or on the task forces on infrastructure, capital markets and financial sector initiatives, administrative and legal simplifications, service industries, knowledge-based industries, and so on. But, of course, at the meeting chaired by the union finance minister there were also the ones who are at the helm of the public-private partnerships in the airport and other infrastructure projects. We cannot help but be reminded of what Adam Smith – long canonised as the patron saint of laissez-faire capitalism– had to say about facilitating such meetings:

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