War or economic suicide?

India is seething, rightly so, with its pint-sized errant neighbour.
Pakistan’s GDP is $300 billion while India’s stands at $2.6 trillion, nearly nine times larger. Meanwhile, the US is at $19.39 trillion, Bangladesh is at $250 billion while China is at $12.24 trillion. So China is six times bigger and the US eight times bigger than us. Yet, Pakistan manages to hold our entire attention!

Keeping terrorists and insurgents at bay is the reason we have a $42 billion defence budget versus $9.6 billion for Pakistan. Sure, we have multiple borders to protect. Should we strengthen our arsenal; tactfully squeeze the finances of our terrorising neighbour as a deterrent; or hit training camps in enemy territory? All options are on the table. But we should not let the revenge narrative derail the growth agenda.
In the past decade, nearly 280 million people in our country have been uplifted from poverty.

The responsibility of adding several more million people to the growing tribe of poor Indians who have now improved their lives and are now capable of offering basic opportunities to their families and dependents, is a bigger goal than avenging the Pulwama attack at the cost of derailing the economic engine. Deterrence is necessary and can be achieved by several other tactics, as known to our experts specialising in strategic warfare.

Back home, cow politics has gone astray and needs to be tamed. Small and medium enterprises are struggling to survive as non-availability of finance has strangled their liquidity and they are gasping for oxygen. A new ordinance introduced to regulate unregulated chit funds and Ponzi schemes is likely to backfire on the finance of the last resort available to MSMEs as now, as per the ordinance, no individual can lend money to another unless they are relatives! Private empires built on crony capitalism and opaque governance mechanisms have been flushed out into oblivion: Essar, Videocon, Jaiprakash Associates, Unitech, DS Kulkarni, IVRCL, all have suffered and are facing bankruptcy proceedings. Even companies like ZEE, Jet Airways, IL&FS and Dewan Housing have announced plans to seek ‘white knights’ to save their sinking ships. Others, like Bhushan Steel, Monnet Ispat, Electrosteel Castings, etc, have already changed hands. The overall corporate performance of the private sector is suboptimal according to an analysis of 2,088 companies by Mint newspaper, which puts net profit growth earnings at 5.29 per cent, which is the lowest in five quarters.

The economy has been receiving steroid shots through various schemes – the current direct benefit transfer of Rs 250 billion as a first tranche is being sent under the PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme. This will be followed by another Rs 500 billion during the year. Further, several states are trying to woo voters by offering loan waivers. All this is possible, dear readers, only on the account of the ability of tax payers to bear the burden! Already, the economy seems to be heading towards a challenging year ahead. If war costs are accounted for, we will spend half of the next term of the new government paying the bills while Pakistan is already a bankrupt nation and the ravages of war will not make a big difference to its decrepit condition.

Let the professionals take their decisions on flushing out the terror rats – but let us focus on bringing economic sanity, which is being mocked by the custodians of the economy themselves.