The economy is crying out ‘start me up’
In 1981, Mick Jagger sang out loud “If you start me up, I’ll never stop” just as the western world was going through the trauma of a recession induced by the 2nd OPEC oil price hike.Fourteen years later, Bill Gates and Microsoft introduced the world to Windows 95, which was launched to the sounds of the same beat at a reported cost of some $3 million.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi may not have heard these lyrics, probably wouldn’t recognise any of the Rolling Stones, even if they were spread out strumming their stuff across his lawn, but he is familiar with Bill Gates, who would tell him that when time is of the essence, you need to be decisive.
Gates might even tell him that the $three million spent enriching Ol’ Rubber Lips was, in hindsight, a bargain given the stupendous success of Windows. Bill Gates was decisive then. Modi needs to be decisive now. To dither now would place at grave risk the economic future of this country.
India was never a finelytuned economic machine but, for most years, it was a spluttering engine. Parts worked, others did not, new and old alike, but somehow we managed most years to keep moving forward at some variable pace. In growth terms, India was never an economic tiger.
INDIA IS IN LARGE PARTS UNLOCKDOWNABLE
Now in spite of meeting a huge coronavirus wrecking ball head on, the economy still has a pulse, just, and can still be started up, provided we act soon. Delay and the words of those legendry rockers Status Quo may come true: “Down down deeper and down” .The government will by now have realised that our India is in large parts unlockdownable. Huge swathes of our population live in conditions where social distancing is impossible.
The India that can socially distance is that which can better afford health care should COVID-19 strike.The India that can’t socially distance is the significant majority, which today finds it impossible to see a doctor or be admitted to a public hospital, in spite of demonstrating significant COVID-19 symptoms.
Six years ago, the ruling BJP swore that he would work for all of India. The reality is somewhat different. Ask the tens of millions that are now displaced hundreds of miles from their work places; hungry, distraught and despondent.
This lockdown has caused humongous damage to the economy. Lives and businesses have been ruined. State and Union treasuries have been emptied. There is only one logical road to recovery: the fastest one available. India needs to be started up in one fell swoop and not progressively. Restart aggressively now and allow consumers, commerce and industry to contribute to rising public revenue receipts. India needs to be started up aggressively because a faltering economy has now been wounded so deeply that getting the wheels of industry and commerce turning, for many, appears a pipedream.
We are not at that point yet, but we are close. Waver now, defer starting up, or stagger unnecessarily the re-opening of the economy, and we may find that it is too little, too late.
As ever adversity is a test for those affected. Give the businesspersons and industrialists in this country half a chance now and they are likely to summon up the requisite entrepreneurial spirit to overcome what today seem like insurmountable odds.
TIME TO TURN ON ALL THE SWITCHES NOW
As independent India’s economic growth is more down to private enterprise than it is to the public sector, this writer believes that this phoenix can rise strongly if we turn on all the switches now. Fear not the monster that we thought COVID-19 might be. We can fight it with better testing, isolation and treatment. It is not the superbug that wipes out whole populations overnight. It is a vicious disease, but one that we are now better equipped to fight.
It will be some months before reliable antibody testing is able to confirm whether the timing of the lockdown was correct. Right or wrong the decision to lockdown was the easier decision. Exiting the lockdown is now far more challenging. This economy can still fly, but not if you destroy the runway. India is not only unlockdownable, it is also unknockdownable. Give enterprise a chance, especially now that we can manage the health issues better.
Mr Prime Minister, India deserves better. It needs to be restarted now at full throttle. Now.
THIS LOCKDOWN HAS CAUSED HUMONGOUS DAMAGE TO THE ECONOMY. THERE IS ONLY ONE LOGICAL ROAD TO RECOVERY. INDIA NEEDS TO BE STARTED UP IN ONE FELL SWOOP AND NOT PROGRESSIVELY