By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, October 12, 2022: Adani’s projection at FORBES that India would become thirty trillion economy in 2047 is exciting and boosts morale at home among the protagonists of the theory that India is a rising elephant. The corporate giants tend to prop up the stakeholders and give a rosy picture of the future. It is fully understandable.

How future will unfold study is made by thinkers, analysts, and geopolitical and even geo-economic experts on whom this author has already written a piece. Past, present and trend will throw up a reasonable forecast in near terms.

How can anyone make a forecast twenty-five years in advance in exact terms even if the trends identified by some may appear to be real?

Who in 1997 twenty five years ago could predict 9/11, global economic and financial melt down of 2008 , the Covid pandemic and even the Russian military operations in UKRAINE and disastrous effect of the Western sanction on the global economy with inflation, looming recession, and spread of hunger with flow of grains being interrupted, who also imagined that Brexit would take place, who thought that China would become economic power house with global ambition through BRI, almost like Marshall Plan of post WWII, who also in India in 1997 imagined that the Indian techies would have global presence.

Rising Elephant, a book written by Ashutosh Seshbalay revealed this wonder of the Indian young IT professionals. His book was sold in million copies. Incidentally, many thinkers considered that this spectacular progress took place partly because the government was not in picture.

If you go back twenty-five years before 1997 to 1972, who thought that Soviet Union and communist bloc would disintegrate, who could imagine globalization, liberalism, and privatisation, and who even thought that Pakistan could acquire nuclear weapons. Pakistan had just been disintegrated. Who thought that US after disastrous defeat in Vietnam being called paper tiger by Mao would revive to lead war against Saddam Hussein to free Kuwait.

What I wish to state is that making a prediction twenty-five years in advance is hazardous.

At present moment India is going through a serious economic situation with declining growth rate, high unemployment, Rupee losing value vis-à-vis dollar, inflation, lackluster domestic investment, increasing trade deficit, poor exports and heavy import of oil, non-performing assets of the banks, even affecting the MSME sector. Even as pandemic related economic shock is yet to go, the new jolt has come due to war in Ukraine.

Geopolitical situation is uncertain with Syria, Libya and Yemen continues to be volatile and highly unpredictable future of Afghanistan. US has revived its moribund relationship with Pakistan by upgrading its F16 fleet.

How long the military operations in Ukraine would continue nobody can predict and what would be the final outcome there is no certainty. How global diplomacy affects business, trade, commerce and economy businesspeople know well.

India’s northern border is uneasy and cross-border terrorism is being promoted by Pakistan, India’s hostile neighbour. The military establishment there still wants to avenge its ignoble defeat of 1971.

India has to give top priority to defence needs. Who will be on whose side in the event of outbreak of hostilities across the border it is highly unpredictable. India-China war of 1962, the Indo-Pak War of 1965 and the Bangladesh war of 1971 had economic consequences.

China’s overreaction to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the North Korean unyielding effort to demonstrate its missile capabilities and unresolved dispute in the South China Sea reflect highly explosive geopolitics not extremely far from India’s geographic boundary. On either side of the sub-continent East, West and then on the North tension both political and military exists. Not too dependable Nepal and Sri Lanka and even Maldives make India’s position vulnerable.

In the background of this, India did not join trade collaboration with ASEAN group while China, Australia, even New Zealand did. One must note that in spite of tension between USA and China there has not been visible exodus of the American corporate houses from there. Whoever has left moved to Vietnam and Thailand?

Although foreign capital has moved to India it is mostly by way of Financial Institutional Investment (FII) and replacement, upgrading etc. of existing industry with no visible large-scale Greenfield projects. Critical assessment of Make in India is necessary for review and course correction.

The thinkers must see how situation will unfold in near terms based on the above facts and make a realistic assessment of future of India’s economy.

Our focus should be on political, economic and social stability of the society which is diverse in terms of ethnicity, religion, language, culture, and economic status. Priority and attention should be given on maintenance of law and order, speedy justice delivery system, increasing efficiency of the bureaucracy and bolstering of public service at the grassroot level with more decentralization of power. Ecosystem should be promoted for pro-business sentiment with private initiative. Corporate behemoths should be more public spirited and give emphasis on corporate social responsibility.

The country cannot afford to neglect public health after the Covid experience and education after the New Education Policy which along with defence will take a major share of our resources.

Concentration on agriculture, ago-based industries, rural industries, MSME, handloom, and rural and domestic tourism, creation of infrastructure through roads, bridges, railway, and airports will give fillip to the growth and generate employment. India has capabilities built over seventy-five years to support such activities.

Big industrial projects involving large scale land acquisition, forest clearance, displacement and upsetting ecology must receive less priority to the micro, small, medium sector, and less glamourous sector like agriculture. Small is beautiful.

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