ECONOMIC REFORMS SINCE 1991
In 1991, a crisis in the balance of payments led to the introduction of economic reforms in the country.
Chapter – 3 LIBERALISATION, PRIVATISATION AND GLOBALISATION: AN APPRAISAL
There is a consensus in the world today that economic development is not all and the GDP is not necessarily a measure of progress of a society. K.R. Narayanan
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Background
- 3 Liberalisation
- 4 Privatisation
- 5 Globalisation
- 6 Indian Economy During Reforms: An Assessment
- 7 Conclusion
- Since independence, India followed the mixed economy framework by combining the advantages of the capitalist economic system with those of the socialist economic system.
- In 1991, India met with an economic crisis relating to its external debt — the government was not able to make repayments on its borrowings from abroad.
- Foreign exchange reserves, which we generally maintain to import petrol and other important items, dropped to levels that were not sufficient for even a fortnight.
- The crisis was further compounded by rising prices of essential goods.
- All these led the government to introduce a new set of policy measures which changed the direction of our developmental strategies.
- The origin of the financial crisis can be traced from the inefficient management of the Indian economy in the 1980s.
- When expenditure is more than income, the government borrows to finance the deficit from banks and also from people within the country and from international financial institutions.
- When we import goods like petroleum, we pay in dollars which we earn from our exports.
- Development policies required that even though the revenues were very low, the government had to overshoot its revenue to meet problems like unemployment, poverty and population explosion.
- The continued spending on development programmes of the government did not generate additional revenue. Moreover, the government was not able to generate sufficiently from internal sources such as taxation.
- When the government was spending a large share of its income on areas which do not provide immediate returns such as the social sector and defence, there was a need to utilise the rest of its revenue in a highly efficient manner. At times, our foreign exchange, borrowed from other countries and international financial institutions, was spent on meeting consumption needs.
- In the late 1980s, government expenditure began to exceed its revenue by such large margins that meeting the expenditure through borrowings became unsustainable.
- India approached the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), popularly known as World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and received $7 billion as loan to manage the crisis.
- For availing the loan, these international agencies expected India to liberalise and open up the economy by removing restrictions on the private sector, reduce the role of the government in many areas and remove trade restrictions between India and other countries.
- India agreed to the conditionalities of World Bank and IMF and announced the New Economic Policy (NEP).
- This set of policies can broadly be classified into two groups: the stabilisation measures and the structural reform measures.
- Stabilisation measures (short-term measures) means that there was a need to maintain sufficient foreign exchange reserves and keep the rising prices under control.
- Structural reform policies (long-term measures) are aimed at improving the efficiency of the economy and increasing its international competitiveness by removing the rigidities in various segments of the Indian economy.
- The government initiated a variety of policies which fall under three heads viz. liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.
- Rules and laws which were aimed at regulating the economic activities became major hindrances in growth and development. Liberalisation was introduced to put an end to these restrictions and open up various sectors of the economy.
- Few liberalisation measures were introduced in 1980s in areas of industrial licensing, export-import policy, technology upgradation, fiscal policy and foreign investment, reform policies initiated in 1991 were more comprehensive.
- Some important areas where reforms were introduced are:
Deregulation of Industrial Sector
- Industrial licensing was abolished for almost all but product categories.
- The only industries which are now reserved for the public sector are defence equipments, atomic energy generation and railway transport.
- Many goods produced by small scale industries have now been dereserved.
- In many industries, the market has been allowed to determine the prices.
Financial Sector Reforms
- The financial sector in India is controlled by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
- Financial sector includes financial institutions such as commercial banks, investment banks, stock exchange operations and foreign exchange market.
- One of the major aims of financial sector reforms is to reduce the role of RBI from regulator to facilitator of financial sector.
- This means that the financial sector may be allowed to take decisions on many matters without consulting the RBI.
- The reform policies led to the establishment of private sector banks, Indian as well as foreign.
- Foreign investment limit in banks was raised to around 50 per cent.
- Certain managerial aspects have been retained with the RBI to safeguard the interests of the account-holders and the nation.
- Foreign Institutional Investors (FII) such as merchant bankers, mutual funds and pension funds are now allowed to invest in Indian financial markets.
- Tax reforms are concerned with the reforms in government’s taxation and public expenditure policies which are collectively known as its fiscal policy.
- There are two types of taxes: direct and indirect.
- Direct taxes consist of taxes on incomes of individuals as well as profits of business enterprises.
- Indirect taxes, taxes levied on commodities.
- Since 1991, there has been a continuous reduction in the taxes on individual incomes as it was felt that high rates of income tax were an important reason for tax evasion.
- The rate of corporation tax, which was very high earlier, has been gradually reduced.
- Another component of reforms in this area is simplification. In order to encourage better compliance on the part of taxpayers many procedures have been simplified and the rates also substantially lowered.
Foreign Exchange Reforms
- In 1991, as an immediate measure to resolve the balance of payments crisis, the rupee was devalued against foreign currencies. This led to an increase in the inflow of foreign exchange.
- Now, more often than not, markets determine exchange rates based on the demand and supply of foreign exchange.
Trade and Investment Policy Reforms
- In order to protect domestic industries, India was following a regime of quantitative restrictions on imports.
- This was encouraged through tight control over imports and by keeping the tariffs very high.
- These policies reduced efficiency and competitiveness which led to slow growth of the manufacturing sector.
- The trade policy reforms aimed at:
- dismantling of quantitative restrictions on imports and exports.
- reduction of tariff rates and
- removal of licensing procedures for imports.
- Import licensing was abolished except in case of hazardous and environmentally sensitive industries.
- Quantitative restrictions on imports of manufactured consumer goods and agricultural products were also fully removed from April 2001.
- Export duties have been removed to increase the competitive position of Indian goods in the international markets.
- It implies shedding of the ownership or management of a government owned enterprise.
- Government companies are converted into private companies in two ways:
- By withdrawal of the government from ownership and management of public sector companies and or
- By outright sale of public sector companies.
- Privatisation of the public sector undertakings by selling off part of the equity of PSUs to the public is known as disinvestment.
- The government envisaged that privatisation could provide strong impetus to the inflow of FDI.
- The government has also made attempts to improve the efficiency of PSUs by giving them autonomy in taking managerial decisions. For instance, some PSUs have been granted special status as maharatnas, navratnas and miniratnas.
Navratnas and Public Enterprise Policies
- The government identifies PSUs and declare them as maharatnas, navratnas and miniratnas.
- They were given greater managerial and operational autonomy, in taking various decisions to run the company efficiently and thus increase their profits.
- Greater operational, financial and managerial autonomy has also been granted to profit-making enterprises referred to as miniratnas.
- In 2011, about 90 public enterprises were designated with different status.
- A few examples of public enterprises with their status are as follows:
- Maharatnas: Indian Oil Corporation Limited and Steel Authority of India Limited.
- Navratnas: Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited; and
- Miniratnas: Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, Airport Authority of India and Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited.
- The granting of status resulted in better performance of these companies.
- Of late, the government has decided to retain them in the public sector and enable them to expand themselves in the global markets and raise resources by themselves from financial markets.
- Although globalisation is generally understood to mean integration of the economy of the country with the world economy, it is a complex phenomenon.
- Globalisation attempts to establish links in such a way that the happenings in India can be influenced by events happening miles away. It is turning the world into one whole or creating a borderless world.
- In outsourcing, a company hires regular service from external sources, mostly from other countries, which was previously provided internally or from within the country (like legal advice, computer service, advertisement, security — each provided by respective departments of the company).
- As a form of economic activity, outsourcing has intensified, in recent times, because of the growth of fast modes of communication, particularly the growth of Information Technology (IT).
- Many of the services such as voice-based business processes (popularly known as BPO or call centres), record keeping, accountancy, banking services, music recording, film editing, book transcription, clinical advice or even teaching are being outsourced by companies in developed countries to India.
- Most multinational corporations, and even small companies, are outsourcing their services to India where they can be availed at a cheaper cost with reasonable degree of skill and accuracy.
- The low wage rates and availability of skilled manpower in India have made it a destination for global outsourcing in the post-reform period.
World Trade Organisation (WTO)
- The WTO was founded in 1995 as the successor organisation to the General Agreement on Trade and Tariff (GATT).
- GATT was established in 1948 with 23 countries as the global trade organisation to administer all multilateral trade agreements by providing equal opportunities to all countries in the international market for trading purposes.
- WTO is expected to establish a rule-based trading regime in which nations cannot place arbitrary restrictions on trade.
- The WTO agreements cover trade in goods as well as services to facilitate international trade (bilateral and multilateral) through removal of tariff as well as non-tariff barriers and providing greater market access to all member countries.
- As an important member of WTO, India has been in the forefront of framing fair global rules, regulations and safeguards and advocating the interests of the developing world. India has kept its commitments towards liberalisation of trade, made in the WTO, by removing quantitative restrictions on imports and reducing tariff rates.
Indian Economy During Reforms: An Assessment
- In economics, growth of an economy is measured by the Gross Domestic Product.
- The growth of GDP increased from 5.6 per cent during 1980-91 to 8.2 per cent during 2007-1012.
- During the reform period, the growth of agriculture has declined.
- While the industrial sectors reported fluctuation, the growth of service sector has gone up.
- This indicates that the growth is mainly driven by the growth in the service sector.
- The Twelfth Plan (2012-2017) envisages the GDP growth rate at 9 or 9.5 per cent. In order to achieve such a high growth rate, the agriculture, industrial and service sectors have to grow at the rates of 4 to 4.2, 9.6 to 10.9 and 10 percentage points, respectively. However, some scholars raise apprehensions over the projection of such high rates of growth as unsustainable.
- The opening up of the economy has led to rapid increase in foreign direct investment and foreign exchange reserves. The foreign investment, which includes foreign direct investment(FDI)and foreign institutional investment(FII), has increased from about US $ 100 million in 1990-91 to US $ 400 billion in 2010-11.
- There has been an increase in the foreign exchange reserves from about US $ 6 billion in 1990-91 to US $ 300 billion in 2011-12.
- In 2011, India is the seventh largest foreign exchange reserve holder in the world.
- Growth and Employment:
- Though the GDP growth rate has increased in the reform period, scholars point out that the
- Reform-led growth has not generated sufficient employment opportunities in the country.
Reforms in Agriculture
- Reforms have not been able to benefit agriculture, where the growth rate has been decelerating.
- Public investment in agriculture sector has been reduced in the reform period.
- Further, the removal of fertiliser subsidy has led to increase in the cost of production, which has severely affected the small and marginal farmers.
- This sector has been experiencing a number of policy changes such as reduction in import duties on agricultural products, removal of minimum support price and lifting of quantitative restrictions on agricultural products; these have adversely affected Indian farmers as they now have to face increased international competition.
- Moreover, because of export-oriented policy strategies in agriculture, there has been a shift from production for the domestic market towards production for the export market focusing on cash crops in lieu of production of food grains. This puts pressure on prices of food grains.
Reforms in Industry
- Industrial growth has also recorded a slowdown.
- This is because of decreasing demand of industrial products due to various reasons such as cheaper imports. Domestic manufacturers are facing competition from imports.
- Moreover, a developing country like India still does not have the access to developed countries’ markets because of high non-tariff barriers. For example, although all quota restrictions on exports of textiles and clothing have been removed in India, U.S.A. has not removed their quota restriction on import of textiles from India and China.
- Every year, the government fixes a target for disinvestment of PSUs. For instance, in 1991-92, it was targeted to mobilise Rs 2,500 crore through disinvestment.
- The government was able to mobilise Rs 3,040 crore more than the target.
- In 2010-11, the target was Rs 40,000 crore whereas the achievement was Rs 22,850 crore.
- Critics point out that the assets of PSUs have been undervalued and sold to the private sector. This means that there has been a substantial loss to the government.
- Moreover, the proceeds from disinvestment were used to offset the shortage of government revenues rather than using it for the development of PSUs and building social infrastructure in the country.
Reforms and Fiscal Policies
- Economic reforms have placed limits on the growth of public expenditure especially in social sectors.
- The tax reductions in the reform period, aimed at yielding larger revenue and to curb tax evasion, have not resulted in increase in tax revenue for the government.
- Also, the reform policies involving tariff reduction have curtailed the scope for raising revenue through customs duties.
- In order to attract foreign investment, tax incentives were provided to foreign investors which further reduced the scope for raising tax revenues. This has a negative impact on developmental and welfare expenditures.
- The process of globalisation through liberalisation and privatisation policies has produced positive as well as negative results both for India and other countries.
- Viewed from the Indian context, some studies have stated:
- The crisis that erupted in the early 1990s was basically an outcome of the deep-rooted inequalities in Indian society and the economic reform policies initiated as a response to the crisis by the government, with externally advised policy package, further aggravated the inequalities.
- Further, it has increased the income and quality of consumption of only high-income groups and the growth has been concentrated only in some select areas in the services sector such as telecommunication, information technology, finance, entertainment, travel and hospitality services, real estate and trade, rather than vital sectors such as agriculture and industry which provide livelihoods to millions of people in the country.
- Some scholars argue that globalisation should be seen as an opportunity in terms of greater access to global markets, high technology and increased possibility of large industries of developing countries to become important players in the international arena.
- On the contrary, the critics argue that globalisation is a strategy of the developed countries to expand their markets in other countries. According to them, it has compromised the welfare and identity of people belonging to poor countries. It has further been pointed out that market-driven globalisation has widened the economic disparities among nations and people.
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