Ease of doing business: myth or battle cry?

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1923
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Centre-state differences undermine efforts to present India as a favourable commercial destination, argues PM Devaiah

While the great Indian juggernaut of liberalization chugs along, the never ending debate on improving the ease of doing business continues unabated. The World Bank’s recent ranking of India as 130th among 190 economies in terms of the ease of doing business should be a wake-up call to a country which was a flourishing trading centre and a dream destination for traders worldwide for hundreds of years.

India’s spices, muslin and indigo attracted European and Asian traders who traversed treacherous oceans and mountains and had no concerns about doing business with India. Ironically, today the world community finds India difficult and awkward to work with.

PM Devaiah
PM Devaiah

The legacy of bureaucracy and the hankering to loot indoctrinated into the Indian psyche by the departing colonizers continue to plague the nation, generating huge inertia and inefficiency in governance. Electoral politics in independent India has been based on a bedrock of pseudo-socialism and appeasement at every juncture and has curtailed the country’s ability to make the much anticipated quantum leap to the next order. Regretfully, our political leaders have shied away from high-quality reforms and long-term nation building measures as they fear electoral losses. The results of all this have been catastrophic.

India now requires able parenting and the hope is that Prime Minister Modi is on the job. In my view the demonetization and drive to go digital unleashed as 2016 came to an end is the boldest political act undertaken since independence. The move has drawn criticism but the fact that India is a nation of cynics has not and need not deter the prime minister.

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PM DEVAIAH is a partner and general counsel at Everstone Capital Advisors in Bengaluru. The views expressed are personal.

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