Rio may be hosting the 2016 Olympics but, the Brazilian Real is down 60%, Petrobras has lost 80% of its market share, the GDP is -4%, and Zika is in the air.  Meanwhile in the east, an entire nation of 1.3 billion went mad building, borrowing, speculating, and scheming. Propped up on a lethal cocktail of artificially low interest rates and unsecured debt, all it took were some ‘Chinese whispers’ to bring down the ‘house of cards’ that were the ghost cities of the Xi dynasty. Job insecurity took on a new meaning in South Africa which had 3 Finance ministers in a period of just one week, all while its stock market continued to dive, its currency plummeted further, and unemployment hovered over 25%. And Russia…is just being Russia. A dash of low oil prices, a sprinkle of Ukrainian bravado, and a hint of Syrian intervention, all brewed together in the ‘Putin’ pot have yielded a perfect recipe of an impending bankruptcy. But what about the erstwhile land of snake charmers and rope tricks?

In the eyes of the popular (Indian) media, India has spent the last 2 years fighting its own demons. Be it social intolerance, political hegemony, fiscal sluggishness, or policy lethargy, India, by these accounts, seems to be synchronizing its decent into the void with its ‘BRICSonian’ counterparts. But is it really?

Diesel pricing has been deregulated, majority foreign investment in the railways has been permitted, FDI in all forms of constructions has been allowed, coal mining sector has been thrown open to foreign/private investors, and the telecom spectrum and coal block auctions have been conducted online and with transparency. This alternative view is provided by most of the international media, where India is the new flavour, where call centres of the 90s have been replaced by tech start-ups, where black-boxed allocation of natural resources of the past have been supplanted by online auctions, where overregulation is being unseated by freedom, where India, as much I hate to quote CNN, is the new China. Agree with him not, The Prime Minister’s globe-trotting Make-in-India ‘sermons’ have put India right and centre on the global stage and this time, everyone is paying more attention than ever, for there are no visibly large alternatives to distract the limelight. Apple reported its sales grew by 76% in 2015. GE, Airbus, Xiaomi, Foxconn and GM have all inked deals to expand their manufacturing operations in India. And as per the Financial Times, India attracted $31 billion FDI, in just the first 6 months of 2015. The world is ‘rediscovering’ this resurgent India as the one shining light in the doom and gloom of another potential global recession.

Major problems do still persist. There are over $7.7 billion in bad debts, our water resources are shrinking and infrastructure, whatever little there is, is crumbling, the population continues to explode and pollution exacerbate, sanitation remains a struggle but healthcare and insurance stand non-existent for most, corruption remains rife and the bureaucracy indifferent.  As you read this article, wondering how deep the abyss is, do take the time to reflect, that economic reforms in India are symptomatic of its democracy - slow and incremental but almost always steps in the right direction. And herein lies the opportunity, a path to Shangri-La, a route already being navigated. India is already working towards delivering the panacea to generation old ailments.

The direct benefit transfers are beginning to deliver cash and goods subsidies directly to avoid leakages, majority investment by foreign institutions in insurance, currently at 49%, is being pushed, retrospective taxation is bring scrapped, natural gas pricing is being deregulated, majority ownership in defence manufacturing is being authorised, and mechanisms to reduce restrictions in single and multi-brand retail are being contemplated. And these are just a few of the policies currently in the works. And although other major regulations like the GST, the Bankruptcy bill, and the Real estate bill, continue to remain in parliamentary limbo, there is a sense of inevitability about the implementation of these rather big-ticket reforms (assuming there is an inescapable prevalence of common sense in the political establishment).

To truly fulfil its potential, India needs to embolden its resolve and meet the stiffest challenges truly deserving of the status bestowed on it by global markets, ‘the bright spot in the global economy’. But to doubt the inevitability of next round of reforms, would be taking our instilled sense of cynicism too far.
The BRICS are dead, but India…is alive and well!

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