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India - the problems with going private

Yashwant Sinha

More than a decade after Manmohan Singh, the then finance minister of India, launched its belated bold strides to take the economy into the 20th century, the world's second biggest country and biggest democracy has a long way to go even to get into gear to catch up with China, let alone with the industrialized world. The mess of the privatization plans is merely one indicator of the country's problems.

There is now no distinguished leader able to articulate and press the economic reforms. Singh was the mastermind, able as an economist as well as a bureaucrat, when a Congress government held sway. But now Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee heads an uneasy and fractious multiparty coalition in which politics, economics, and petty personal ambitions are all part of the constantly swirling kaleidoscope that constitutes the decision-making process.

As an example, Mamata Banerjee, the assertive railway minister and leader of the small Trinamool Congress, threatened to take her party out of the government unless Vajpayee agreed to cut prices of cooking gas and kerosene.

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