Libralisation – III

Economic liberalisation in India

Indian economic policy after independence was influenced by the colonial experience (which was seen by Indian leaders as exploitative in nature

Policy tended towards protectionism, with a strong emphasis on import substitution, industrialization under state monitoring, state intervention at the micro level in all businesses especially in labour and financial markets, a large public sector, business regulation, and central planning.[14]

Five-Year Plans of India resembled central planning in the Soviet Union. Steel, mining, machine tools, water, telecommunications, insurance, and electrical plants, among other industries, were effectively nationalized in the mid-1950s. Elaborate licences, regulations and the accompanying red tape, commonly referred to as Licence Raj, were required to set up business in India between 1947 and 1990.

Before the process of reform began in 1991, the government attempted to close the Indian economy to the outside world.

The Indian currency, the rupee, was inconvertible and high tariffs and import licensing prevented foreign goods reaching the market.

India also operated a system of central planning for the economy, in which firms required licenses to invest and develop.

The labyrinthine bureaucracy often led to absurd restrictions—up to 80 agencies had to be satisfied before a firm could be granted a licence to produce and the state would decide what was produced, how much, at what price and what sources of capital were used.

The government also prevented firms from laying off workers or closing factories.

The central pillar of the policy was import substitution, the belief that India needed to rely on internal markets for development, not international trade—a belief generated by a mixture of socialism and the experience of colonial exploitation.

Planning and the state, rather than markets, would determine how much investment was needed in which sectors.

The economic liberalisation in India refers to ongoing economic reforms in India that started on 24 July 1991.

After Independence in 1947, India adhered to socialist policies. Attempts were made to liberalize economy in 1966 and 1985.

The first attempt was reversed in 1967. Thereafter, a stronger version of socialism was adopted.

Second major attempt was in 1985 by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The process came to a halt in 1987, though 1966 style reversal did not take place.

In 1991, after India faced a balance of payments crisis, it had to pledge 20 tons of gold to Union Bank of Switzerland and 47 tons to Bank of England as part of a bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In addition, the IMF required India to undertake a series of structural economic reforms. As a result of this requirement, the government of P. V. Narasimha Rao and his finance minister Manmohan Singh (currently the Prime Minister of India) started breakthrough reforms, although they did not implement many of the reforms the IMF wanted.

The new neo-liberal policies included opening for international trade and investment, deregulation, initiation of privatization, tax reforms, and inflation-controlling measures. The overall direction of liberalisation has since remained the same, irrespective of the ruling party.

The fruits of liberalisation reached their peak in 2007, when India recorded its highest GDP growth rate of 9%. With this, India became the second fastest growing major economy in the world, next only to China. The growth rate has slowed significantly in the first half of 2012.

An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report states that the average growth rate 7.5% will double the average income in a decade, and more reforms would speed up the pace.

Indian government coalitions have been advised to continue liberalisation. India grows at slower pace than China, which has been liberalising its economy since 1978.

For 2010, India was ranked 124th among 179 countries in Index of Economic Freedom World Rankings, which is an improvement from the preceding year.

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