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18 December 2016

Mistaken priorities....

When there are too many policy reforms to be addressed, why is this focus on moving India to Cashless economy?

Cashless is a natural progression of a middle class economy. As the economy and the technology evolves, more and more of the country will move to Cashless. (It is worth noting that only one village in the whole of India has gone cash less in the last 15 years. So imagine the mammoth effort needed to move the country cash less !!) When government is focusing on and encouraging Cash Less at the cost of focus on policy reforms, only two conclusions are possible.

One, this government do not have its priorities clear. It doesn't know what to do, so like a butterfly, it flits from one agenda to another (Acche Din, Swachh Bharat, Governance Day, Yoga Day, Porn Ban, Skill India, Make In India, Smart City Plan, Jan Dhan Yojana (probably a success, jury is still out on that one) Black Money Amnesty, Demonetization, Anti Corruption, Cash Less, Less Cash, Black Money Amnesty again...)

I am not even mentioning some Social Conservative Issues and pseudo issues that wasted the energy of the country in the last two years.

Two, it has it priorities abundantly clear. It knows that it goofed up by sucking out the currency from the system and is trying desperately to handle the aftereffects. 'Cash Less', 'Less Cash', 'Mobile Wallet'...etc are all euphemism for 'We are hopelessly short of Cash in our country'

My take is, it is point two above. The government is not fool. It knows the reality. There is hardly any cash in the system. Government is trying to make virtue out of necessity by asking country to go Cash Less. 

So what could be the priorities for the current government? Here are some.

Mr.Modi came to power by promising jobs and economic growth. That is the priority. We run the risk of fast losing our demographic dividend.

Power sector reforms is a priority. Coal India announced a dismal latest quarter. I remember the hype generated by Piyush Goyal when Coal India IPO was announced.

Judicial reforms is a priority. So many judges seats are lying vacant.

Financial sector reforms is a priority. Only 3% of India's savings goes to equity while business is paying upward of 19% for business loans.

Tax reforms is a priority, only about 6% of India's population pays Income tax.

Poverty alleviation is a priority, almost 30% of India is still poor,

Privatization of loss making PSUs is a priority, they are a waste of precious national / natural resources,

Rooting out corruption and putting corrupt people in Jail is a priority,

Building national infrastructure is a priority.

Rural electrification is a priority. Rural Banking is a priority, Agri Credit is a priority, preventing the rotting of food in godowns when parts of the country are reeling from drought and famine is a priority. Child education is a priority. Girl education and empowerment is a priority. Electoral reforms is a priority, inflation is a priority....

Improving the quality of public / government schools and hospitals, Strengthening Agri Supply Chain, ensuring that farmers get fair pay for their produce, expanding MNREGA and giving work and dignity to poor people, making India's educational institutions world class...

These are all priorities that the government can and should focus on.

Rural telephony and communication is a priority. Encouraging computer literacy is a priority. Educating farmers on organic farming is a priority. Solar is a priority as is non-conventional sources of energy.

Strengthening secularism and the celebrating the diversity of the country is a priority. Providing level playing field for everyone in the economy is a priority. Increasing our share of global trade is a priority. Making it easier to start business in the country is a priority...

I can go on...

Encouraging cash less by proactive policies and innovative approaches, building proper networks, bringing in the needed fool proof security, ensuring network availability, bringing cash less governmental interactions like automating property tax payments in Karnataka....

That is the need of the hour, if the government is serious about moving country to cash less.

Good policy reforms is like cooking food. Good cooking needs to be done on slow fire with regular oversight and interventions (regular mixing, testing for salt, spice etc). And it needs time. Similarly good policy reforms need time and diligent focus and oversight. And time.

Unfortunately, the demonetization has derailed any focus that the government may have had in getting some lasting policy reforms...Next two years will be a grind.

That is what I think. I hope to god I am wrong...

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