The Past, Present and Future of Industrial Policy in India: Adapting to the Changing Domestic and International Environment
In the post-World War II period India was probably the first non-communist developing country to have instituted a full-fledged industrial policy. The purpose of the policy was to co-ordinate investment decisions both in the public and the private sectors and to seize the 'commanding heights' of the economy by bringing certain strategic industries and firms under public ownership. This classical state-directed industrialisation model held sway for three decades, from 1950-1980. The model began to erode in the 1980s. Following a serious external liquidity crisis in 1991 the model was fundamentally changed. Indian industrial policy in the period 1950 to 1980, as embodied in its five-year plans, has long been the subject of intense criticism from the powerful neo-liberal critics of the country's development. In their view it was the change away from India's traditional industrial policy in 1991 towards liberalisation, de-regulation, and market orientation that ushered in a new era of faster economic growth. This paper takes a wide view of industrial policy, emphasising the government's continuing co-ordinating role in various spheres. It regards the institution of the Planning Commission as a major benefit for the country particularly as its role in formulating industrial policy in the narrow sense and in guiding India's ongoing industrial revolution in the broader sense is still widely accepted by the mainstream political parties of the left and the right (for example, Bhartiya Janata Party, Indian People's Party). The paper suggests that industrial policy and planned economic development did not come to an end with the deregulation of India's traditional investment regime in the 1980s and 1990s. Industrial policy has continued in a different form during the period, facing an agenda of new issues and an updating of older ones. The analysis of this paper suggests that today a central challenge for the Planning Commission is to exploit India's lead in ICT and its `institutional surplus' (democracy, common law legal heritage) to raise the current 8 per cent trend rate of growth to double-digit numbers while maintaining equitable distribution of the fruits of economic progress. To do so, India requires a somewhat different industrial policy than that pursued in the Nehru-Mahalanobis era, or that has been followed since then.
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