This seems to be the season of predicting how India is doomed to fail in 2018. Earlier this month, controversial historian Ramachandra Guha made a similar prediction. The New York Times did not want to be seen as falling behind in joining this bandwagon, so they came up a longish article titled– “India’s Economic Woes Are Piercing Modi’s Aura of Invulnerability”
And one of their first analysis is the following:
“Just about all economists agree that two of the prime minister’s biggest policy gambles — abruptly voiding most of the nation’s currency and then, less than a year later, imposing a sweeping new sales tax — have slowed India’s meteoric growth.”
Read the last line again – “Imposing a sweeping new sales tax”! First of all, GST is not a sales tax. GST stands for Goods and Services Tax. It is baffling how the New York Times could merrily classify this as a sales tax.
Second of all, this “new sales tax” was never “imposed”. This has been decided and implemented by the GST Council – which includes governments of all states and the central government. And therefore, by extension, includes almost all major political parties in India (In this context, unfortunately I have to bracket AAP also as a major party). A total of 23 meetings of the council have happened so far. All decisions of the meetings have been unanimous. Yes, unanimous. And yet miraculously, the New York Times wants to call this as an “imposition”.
The typical sweeping generalization has been the hallmark of the liberal gang from a long time. NYT attributes the observations to “Just about all economists”. Now, what kind of quantification is this? Just so that we don’t have to worry too much about this quantification, the NYT provides us an answer in the very next paragraph:
“Things have been worsening, worsening, worsening,” said Himanshu, an economics professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, who uses only one name.”
There you go. The professor who uses only one name is our data point. The professor from the nearest accessible university, JNU, is our data point to arrive at the conclusion that a “sweeping sales tax” has been “imposed” on the country! And before we forget, “things are worsening, worsening, worsening”.
The next paragraph is even more baffling. Because one would expect a follow up to how “things are worsening, worsening, worsening”.
“Still, the economy here is far from failing. The stock market continues to soar, major rail, road and port projects are unfolding across the country, and foreign investors poured $25.4 billion into India from April to September, up 17 percent from the period in 2016.
The government on Friday predicted that the country’s gross domestic product would grow by 6.5 percent in the 2017-18 financial year. While that is the lowest number the country has seen in four years, India’s economy is one that most countries would love to have.”
Now I am slightly flummoxed. Is our economy doing terrible or well? If “India’s economy is one that most countries would love to have”, then why this scaremongering of “economic woes”. If the “economic woes” are indeed worse and real, then why would most countries “love to have” our economy?!
Unsure of how to continue the article further, the NYT immediately falls back on another standard argument.
“But it does not feel that way to the huge number of Indians negatively affected by Mr. Modi’s policies, and the grumbles are growing. So are social tensions, especially those that divide Hindus from Muslims, and upper caste from lower caste.”
Again, no quantification on “Huge number of Indians”. A mere opinion, perhaps based on interactions with some JNU students? So they move to their next best bet – the Gujarat elections!
“Even in Gujarat, the state considered the strongest of Mr. Modi’s strongholds, where people have been cheering his rise for the past 20 years and line up in dusty fields by the thousands just to catch a glimpse of his saffron scarf and groomed white beard, many feel betrayed.”
I often wonder the need for so much prose, when things can be told in simple terms too! But then we digress. Here’s more:
“In December, in an election that the entire country was watching because it was seen as a referendum on Mr. Modi’s governance, Gujarati voters elected a new State Assembly. Mr. Modi’s party maintained its majority but lost 16 seats.”
No mention of the victory in Himachal. Or of the 49% vote garnered. Or of the fact that a majority was “maintained” even after being in power for 22 years. A couple of responses by those who were not happy with Modi were printed; some examples from Surat were given but no mention was made of the fact that the BJP swept the elections in Surat. The piece then enters the GST territory (and here the correct abbreviation is given!), and the all too familiar complaints are again repeated. Yet no mention of the facts that many of these complaints (rate changes, process headaches, GSTN etc) were acted upon; many of the suggestions were incorporated; and the feedback process is robust and continuous (Details of all GST council meetings can be found here).
The article ended as pompously as it started.
“If economic maneuverability is limited,” said Ashutosh Varshney, a political-science professor and India specialist at Brown University, “then the communal card, the Hindu-Muslim card, is a massive political temptation.”
What or who exactly is a “India specialist”. Is that even a title? But hold on though, because in the next para, NYT gives an even better title to Pakistan.
“One example was Mr. Modi’s accusations that opposition leaders were in cahoots with Pakistan, India’s rival and a nation with a strong Islamic identity, after some opposition leaders met some Pakistani officials at a recent social event.”
Oh boy – Pakistan is merely a “nation with a strong Islamic Identity” it seems. Perhaps they should rename their country to “Strong Islamic Republic of Pakistan” then?
Is this rebuttal trying to deny the fact that there are no problems with the economy? Of course not! Which economy does not have a problem? Certain indices have gone down and certain indices have gone up (for example, as indicated in the NYT article itself!) – if I write a glowing article based on only the many rising indices not mentioned in the NYT article too, the liberal cabal will pounce on me saying that I am repeating the “India Shining” campaign.
The dip in the GDP growth rate is real. No one, including the Prime Minister, has denied this fact. The outlook of growth is also real. Something that doomsayers wouldn’t like to acknowledge. One of the doomsayers is a deputy editor of The Hindu and his lies have been exposed before. In 2008, the GDP growth rate fell down to 3.9% – do you folks recollect so much of negativity floating around. In 2012, GDP was 5.5% (fell from 10% in 2010) – do you folks recollect so much of negativity then?
It is one thing to express concern regarding setbacks and giving relevant feedback. It is a totally different thing to predict gloom and doom for the country, based on limited understanding and worse, lies.