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The Lost Decade of India’s Growth Story

As part of its ‘Kitaab – Books in Discussion’ series, a book discussion on Puja Mehra’s ‘The Lost Decade 2008 – 2018’ will be held on August 23, 11 a.m. onwards at The International Centre Goa, Dona Paula

Mehra, a two-time winner of the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award in 2008 and 2009, was earlier the economics editor at The Hindu. Her book offers a detailed and convincing explanation of why and how India’s growth story has unravelled since the global financial meltdown of 2008. According to Mehra, even though India’s economy continues to grow at a reasonably fast pace, the last decade “represents a missed opportunity” for “radically reforming India’s economic systems, sustaining high growth rates and improving lives meaningfully.”

The Lost Decade, in Mehra’s words is “about the impact of politics on policies and the economy” and “tells the story of an economy enervated by politics.” The book has four sections, namely, The Shock (2008-09); A Recovery Destroyed (2009-12); A Slow Recovery Again (2012-15); and Another Recovery Destroyed (2016-18).  Each of the sections presents a detailed account, of the interaction of economics and politics produced “half-baked, ill-thought out” policies, including the land acquisition law, the national food security law, demonetisation and GST, that have “pushed away the economic future that was nearly within our reach.” The only period that escapes Mehra’s sanction is 2008-09 – the first section in her book – when the global financial shock was handled admirably by the Manmohan Singh-led government which provided economic experts the autonomy to design and implement policies “with little interference of politics” so that the economy had rebounded by mid-2009.  The remainder of the 10-year period, in Mehra’s account, was a “wasted decade” in which “the pre-global financial crisis growth momentum has still not been regained.” To that extent, the India growth story is that of an underperforming economy that has failed to live up to its potential due to poor policy choices.

One of the main merits of Mehra’s book is that it covers two distinct periods – that of the Congress-led government (2008-14) and the BJP-led government (2014-18) – and spares neither for their policy choices which placed political considerations over economic growth.

(Entry is free and open to general public.)

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