Opinion

Resilient India fends off pandemic blow

Surbhi Jain/Sonali Chowdhry | Updated on January 29, 2021

India has endeavoured to turn the crisis into an opportunity by ramping up its health and testing infrastructure   -  Swapan Mahapatra

The Economic Survey recognises the role of strategic policy-making in helping fight the virus and ensuring economic recovery

Economic Survey 2020-21 is a tribute to the human spirit of grit and compassion encapsulated by the tireless battle against the pandemic by our frontline Covid-19 warriors. It is also an acknowledgement of the path traversed by the country in controlling the pandemic and cushioning the economic impact.

The Survey acclaims the resolve exhibited by each Indian in finding its way out from the darkness of ‘lives vs livelihoods’ to the glow of ‘#SavingLivesAndLivelihoods’. The resilience of the Indian economy to rise from a sharp contraction of 23.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2020-21 has been endorsed by recent estimations by the IMF. India is estimated to emerge as the world’s fastest growing economy in the next two years.

Click here to read the full survey

Through this year, as India fought the global pandemic, it charted its own unique trajectory — showing remarkable resilience, be it in fighting the virus or ensuring economic recovery. This resilience is driven by the strength of our systems that enforced the graded public health measures, ramped up the health response and ensured free foodgrains to 80 crore people.

The crucial social institution of digital payments built arduously in recent years enabled putting in place a swift mechanism to provide succour to the weaker and vulnerable sections through cash transfers. India also derived its strength from the support of 137 crore Indians who practised social distancing, wore masks, observed ‘Covid-appropriate’ behaviour and industriously contributed to the fight.

The Economic Survey recognises the integral role of effective policy-making in charting the path to economic growth and social development. The upturn in the economy, while avoiding a second wave of infections, makes India a sui generis case in strategic policymaking, of being fearless to choose the road less travelled by.

 

India’s human-centric policy response to the pandemic, tailored to India’s unique vulnerabilities, demonstrated the power of upholding self-belief in immense uncertainty. Empowered by visionary and foresighted policy, India has endeavoured to turn this crisis into an opportunity by ramping up its health and testing infrastructure and implementing a slew of seminal reforms to strengthen the long-term growth potential of the economy.

A clarity of objectives in policy-making is imperative as there are inherent trade-offs posed by uncertain and dynamic factors for any country’s development. At a time of rapid change and mounting uncertainty, the clear objective of ‘Jaan hai to Jahan hai’ and to ‘break the chain of spread’ helped the government face the dilemma of ‘lives vs livelihood’, pace the sequence of policy interventions and adapt its response as per the evolving situation.

The policy response was tailored to different phases of the epidemic, adapting to evolving requirements to provide succour to people, support demand, facilitate the recovery to pre-pandemic levels and ensure fiscal sustainability. A gradual, smooth transition was paved from ‘Jaan hai to Jahan hai’ to ‘Jaan bhi aur Jahan bhi’.

The Survey makes the case for continued focus on economic growth as the most important objective for policy-making at India’s current stage of development. It delineates the constituents that would strengthen effectiveness of policy-making — continued reforms, innovation, timely regulatory support and withdrawal of forbearance.

Continuing the endeavours of previous Surveys to relate economics to a common person, the Survey constructs an index of ‘the bare necessities’ across States in India. It shows that compared to 2012, access to “the bare necessities” has improved across all States in 2018.

The improvements are widespread as they span each of the five dimensions — access to water, housing, sanitation, micro-environment and other facilities. The policy emphasis on ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ in recent years has led to this improved access.

Economic Survey 2020-21 is, therefore, a testimony to the resilience and intrinsic strength of the fundamentals of the Indian society and the economy. This Survey embodies the deep sense of confidence that Indians have demonstrated to come out victorious against any adversity.

The writers are, respectively, Advisor and Consultant to the Department of Economic Affairs . The views expressed are personal

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Published on January 29, 2021
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