APN News, February 08, 2024

“CUTS involvement in leveraging free trade and encouraging competition within the system, contributing to the interests of the developing countries in international forums is noteworthy said Former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India and Noted Economist, Dr. C. Rangarajan in a fireside chat with Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International in Chennai. He was speaking on the theme of the lecture ‘Growth Prospects of the Indian Economy”,

The session was the ninth such event in a series of lectures commemorating its 40th-anniversary celebrations (1983-2023). The title of the lecture was ‘Growth Prospects of the Indian Economy’.

At the outset, Mehta briefly introduced CUTS, describing its origins as a consumer organisation and its subsequent expansion into international trade and public policy as a felt need.

“Over the years, we have graduated from a consumer protection to a consumer welfare society which is reflected in our policy-related work,” Mehta reckoned.

C Rangarajan began by appreciating the efforts made by CUTS towards consumer sovereignty and reminisced his long association with the organisation.

Speaking on the theme of the lecture ‘Growth Prospects of the Indian Economy”, Rangarajan noted that the 1991 trade reforms especially focused on liberalisation.

“We had similar current account deficits in the 70s and 80s but our borrowings were less and we could go to the IMF for financial bailouts. But in 1991, our borrowings were high and economic reforms were the only option left,” he opined.

“The 1991 reforms acted as a landmark in India’s economy as it aimed towards knocking down the licence raj, re-defining the state’s role and giving up import substitutions in order to embrace world trade and compete with the world market,” Dr. Rangarajan stated.

“The basic aim was to improve efficiency in India’s economic system and enhance the nation’s competitiveness within and outside the country,” he added.

According to the Former RBI Governor, modern technology can be leveraged along with the increase of employment by identifying relevant sectors which are labour-intensive.

Highlighting that Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) can benefit nations, he said India should aim to capitalise on such agreements with countries that possess transparent trading mechanisms and robust business systems.

“The success of such initiatives hinges on India’s capacity to capitalise on its demographic dividend by enhancing labour force participation, including through upskilling initiatives,” Dr. Rangarajan explained.

“Abolishing poverty should be at the top of our priorities and measuring poverty should include both indicators of expenditure as well as the multidimensional poverty measure.

Further, he added that “Investment should not be based on consumption or demand for consumption, it is the investment that creates demand for consumption.”

“The key lies in fostering a favourable investment environment, which requires attention to both economic and non-economic factors. Creating conducive conditions for investment is essential for long-term economic prosperity,” he observed.

Mehta underscored that the Union Government’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat does not merely imply self-reliance, but rather emphasizes self-reliance while also contributing adequately to both its own needs and the global economy.

This concept truly embodies the notion of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, as emphasized by Prime Minister Modi during India’s G20 presidency, he explained.

“We have been practicing South-South cooperation traditionally, and now we are getting into research and advocacy pillars of North-South cooperation,” Mehta further stated.

The session wrapped up with an intense Q&A session from over 100 participants who joined both virtually and physically for the event. Engaging queries were raised on topics such as skill development, the government’s privatisation plans, and various other matters of economic concern.

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