Will Narendra Modi be India’s Thatcher?


The budget will be the first really big test of Mr Modi’s reformist credentials


Expectations are running high for the new government’s first major budget.

The hundreds of millions of Indians whose votes helped sweep Prime Minister Modi to power in May last year believed that he offered the best hope for bringing growth and jobs to the country.

The budget will be the first really big test of Mr Modi’s reformist credentials, an opportunity for his government to demonstrate how it intends to reshape the Indian economy and deliver prosperity in the years ahead.

So how radical will Mr Modi’s government be: is he India’s answer to Margaret Thatcher, ready to fundamentally restructure the economy?

Mr Modi has already identified India’s key challenge: to create jobs. India’s vast population should be a huge asset.

Almost half of its 1.25 billion people are under 25. Find them decent jobs and you create a powerful engine for prosperity and growth. This is India’s potential “demographic dividend”.

Yet hundreds of millions of Indians still live in abject poverty.

Shining success

Two-thirds of the country gets by on $1.50 (97p) a day or less, according to the Asian Development Bank; nine out of 10 Indians work outside the formal economy; and even more shockingly Unicef estimates that almost half of all Indian children are malnourished.

Mr Modi has said he aims to create the employment that would help lift people out of destitution by encouraging manufacturing industry to flourish – you see his invocation to “Make in India” everywhere.

And there are certainly some shining successes in manufacturing, as well as in the more commonly celebrated sectors of software and pharmaceuticals.


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