ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Economic Ideology for Well-defined Policymaking

Wonked! India in Search of an Economic Ideology by Vivan Sharan, New Delhi: Bloomsbury India, 2019; pp 320, ₹ 599.

Is ‘Islamic Finance’ Islamic?

Riba could mean usury, interest, economic rent and even surplus value (in the Marxian sense). Riba is “un-Islamic.” Without riba, capital accumulation, and capitalism itself will not be possible. However, those who own capital in the Muslim world have taken charge of defining what is Islamic and what is not. The result? They find ways to multiply it in modes that benefit only themselves, just as their non-Islamic counterparts.

Bad Bank Proposal for India

There have been two main proposals to tackle the stressed assets problem of Indian banks since the beginning of this year. Both proposals are based implicitly on the financial intermediation theory of banking. The alternative credit creation theory of banking opens up other possibilities. One such possibility is a partial Jubilee financed by zero coupon perpetual bonds.

Economic Liberalisation in India

Even if adjustment and reform in 1991 were driven by economic compulsions, it was the political process that made these possible. However, liberalisation was shaped largely by the economic problems of the government rather than by the economic priorities of the people or by long-term development objectives. Thus, there were limitations in conception and design which have been subsequently validated by experience. Jobless growth, persistent poverty and rising inequality have mounted as problems since economic liberalisation began. And, 25 years later, four quiet crises confront the economy, in agriculture, infrastructure, industrialisation and education as constraints on the country’s future prospects. These problems must be resolved if economic growth has to be sustained and transformed into meaningful development. In this quest, India needs a developmental state for its market economy to improve the living conditions of her people.

‘Fiscal Federalism’ in India since 1991

The “reforms” in 1991 laid out a new trajectory in which federalism was dichotomised into two parts—political and fiscal. The fiscal was privileged and used to undermine the political. Fiscal federalism in India since 1991 rests on the contradictions generated by the theoretical infirmities of the sound finance paradigm along with a concerted undermining of federal provisions. This political drive is in keeping with the agenda since 1991, eroding the relative autonomy of the state to turn it into a facilitator of a macroeconomic expansion process in which the wage–surplus distribution becomes more and more favourable to capital.

Political Economy of Indian Economic Policy

The Evolution of Economic Policy in India: Selected Essays by P N Dhar; Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2003; pp 255.

Argentina's Crisis: Causes and Consequences

During the east Asian crisis of 1997, Argentina was being referred to as a model state because of its fixed exchange rate regime. However, by 2001, due to several macroeconomic reasons the economy had collapsed. It is now clear that Argentina will reverse at least some of the economic reforms introduced by president Carlos Mennen in the early 1990s to survive the crisis it is currently experiencing. That small and open economies are far more susceptible to large external shocks, such as changes in foreign interest rates, terms of trade, regional contagion effects, etc, is among the many lessons of the Argentine crisis.

Direct Tax Reform

The consultation paper of the Task Force on Direct Taxes has an evangelical flavour to it. Some of its suggestions for administrative simplification can be accepted without hesitation, but its other suggestions require more inputs before decisions can be made. It would be interesting to see the detailed computations that underlie the recommendations of the Task Force.

Sri Lankan Economy of War and Peace

The experience of economic liberalisation in Sri Lanka has coincided with the nearly 20-year long civil strife in the nation's north and east. An attempt is made here to trace the economic reform programme since the war began. For the economy to be brought back on track the cumbersome task of balancing the needs of long-term economic management with the immediate demands of the current ceasefire and peace initiatives has to be undertaken.

Strategy for Economic Reform in West Bengal

During the last two decades West Bengal has led the rest of the country with regard to agricultural performance and implementation of panchayat institutions. But these developments have begun to level out. At the same time the state has fallen behind in other sectors - industry, higher education and state of public finances, particularly - to an extent that is seriously worrying. This paper reviews performance of these different sectors, discusses possible explanatory factors, and makes a number of suggestions for policy reforms. With regard to industrial revival, it stresses public investment in transport and communication, measures to improve higher education, foster industry-university collaborations, and help small-scale industries overcome specific market imperfections (access to credit, technology and distribution channels). In public finance, emphasis is placed on raising tax revenues (especially with regard to the service sector), limiting losses of public sector undertakings, and widening the scope of land taxes and user fees. In the agricultural sector, the need for a greater role of the government with regard to biotechnology, extension services, irrigation and flood control is emphasised, along with suggestions for encouraging and regulating contract farming with MNCs. Finally the article urges greater empowerment of panchayats with regard to social service delivery and agro-business development, and administrative reforms to enhance accountability of state government employees.

Why Big Sell-Offs Irk Politicians

Dare one suggest that politicians could have good reasons to be wary of big-ticket privatisation? With their instinctual understanding of the polity, they might have a better sense of the 'agency' problems inherent in privatisation than the cerebral types who are forever running them down.

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