Is Modi a false economic ‘messiah’?
India’s economic growth has stayed stuck below 5% for seven straight quarters, well down from a double-digit expansion rate in 2010. Such an unimpressive track record does not help a government in an election year. The business mood is dismal, and many blame the ruling coalition.
No government can maintain fast-paced growth in perpetuity if it is honest about its statistics, but India is a land of rising expectations. Nearly a quarter of a century after India jettisoned socialistic policies, people increasingly feel the economy should only grow quickly and that everyone has the right to become prosperous.
That is not easy to deliver. India has creaky infrastructure, bureaucratic hurdles, an inflexible labor market, idiosyncratic rules about foreign ownership and pervasive corruption. These are all reasons why the country has continued to underachieve.
If opinion polls are accurate, this is all about to change. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, also known as the Indian People’s Party, is in the lead and could emerge as the single-largest force after elections in a few weeks. Its candidate for prime minister is Narendra Modi, chief minister of the state of Gujarat. Many hail him as a “messiah” who will deliver a market-driven economy.
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