Ministers, realise gravity of slump

The Narendra Modi government’s ministers seem happy to shoot their mouths off, compounding the injury of economic slowdown with insult to citizens’ intellect, asking people to blindly believe what the government is dishing out and not do the math themselves on its promise of a $5 trillion economy by 2024. Take, for instance, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman inferring from a global study that the auto sector in India is suffering because millennials are not buying cars as they prefer to commute by taxi. She seems to have conveniently ignored the fact that overall consumption demand, not just for cars and motorcycles but even for soaps and biscuits, has been on a slide for months now. Falling real incomes, job losses  and weak sentiment about short and medium-term economic prospects at the micro and macro levels, caused in no small measure by the government’s own policies and actions, are the real culprits. But who cares? The millennials don’t have bread and jobs, but they are eating cake!  

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal chose to imagine India sitting on a beam of light and travelling to the promised land of $5 trillion by 2024 when asked what the government’s plan was to get there at a time GDP growth had fallen to 5% in the first quarter of the fiscal. Don’t believe economists who are saying that India needs to grow at over 12% to get there, and don’t even do the math yourself, he told the citizens of India, just sit and enjoy the ride the government is taking the country on. Would Albert Einstein have discovered the law of gravity if he had stuck only to known mathematical formulae, the very clever minister shot off for good measure. That’s the trouble with ministers and governments that have no respect for facts. They don’t realise the gravity of the situations they create. Instead, they distort the reality field – or, should we say, the space-time continuum in Einstein’s relativistic terms -- so much that poor Sir Isaac Newton starts to turn involuntarily in his grave.

Goyal may be allowed the benefit of doubt on his mastery of science facts, but citizens, as the ultimate stakeholders of the country’s destiny, have the right to know what the government’s plan is on the economic front in all its detail. As former prime minister Manmohan Singh pointed out, admitting to the economic slowdown is not a matter of national shame. It’s only when the government does so that it can begin to do the straightforward Newtonian calculus to get from $2.7 trillion today to $5 trillion by 2024.

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