Disrupting to transform

| Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on December 30, 2016

If 2017 ushers in genuine change, the turmoils of 2016 would have been worth it

Disruption is a popular word in the world of business. Both consumers and investors tend to reward disruptive innovators. From Apple to Uber, corporates — and, one could argue, their customers — have benefited hugely from disruptive changes. But when it comes to the world at large, disruptions are seldom viewed in such a positive light; accompanied, as they so often are, by physical and economic turmoil and human misery. The disruptive change unleashed by the Islamic State has led to the greatest human migration in modern history, with millions of refugees stranded in alien lands. As if that was not enough, Brexit has unleashed fresh turmoil in the Euro zone, with the very idea of a unified Europe with a single market and a single currency under threat. Across the Atlantic, the election of that arch disruptor, Donald Trump, as the next President of the world’s largest economy and the world’s sole remaining superpower, has unleashed consternation, not just within its borders, but the world at large. India, too, has seen more than its fair share of disruption as this tumultuous year draws to a close. Economic growth has slowed, exports are in the doldrums, debt laden corporates have ceased investing, and the banking system is struggling under an ever-growing mountain of debt. The final touch came from demonetisation. The unexpected withdrawal of ₹500 and ₹1,000 currency notes, which sucked out a bulk of the cash from the economy overnight, has disrupted the life of every Indian, rich or poor, powerful or disenfranchised.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured the nation that this pain will be worth it. He has promised a war on corruption and black money, a war in which victory will lead to a transformation of the nation into a modern, digitally empowered economy, where transparency and rule of law will reign supreme. So far, the nation has stood with him, as well as patiently in queues outside banks and ATMs to exchange its old currency or withdraw new notes — a striking contrast with Venezuela, where a similar move led to street battles.

This patience and sacrifice deserves its reward. The Centre needs to set aside the shoddy execution of the demonetisation drive and remain focussed on ensuring that the desired outcomes are delivered. The roll out of GST in the coming year — if the political class can set aside its mutual antipathies for the nonce and focus on national goals instead — can set the stage for this change.Only then can we hope for a truly transformational 2017.

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Published on December 30, 2016
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