Leading Washington think-tank launches India Reforms Scorecard 3.0

PM Modi being sworn-in at Rashtrapati Bhavan as President Droupadi Murmu looks on. PHOTO X @narendramodi

Washington DC: The India Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a leading think-tank in the capital, has launched the “India Reforms Scorecard 3.0 (2024-29)” which outlines 30 key reforms for the newly elected National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to tackle. This scorecard will be regularly updated to record the NDA’s progress on each reform.

“Every five years we pull together a list of the 30 big reforms that we think the Indian government should work on,” Rick Rossow, Chair in US-India Policy Studies, told News India Times after launching the Scorecard 3.0 at CSIS on June 10, 2024. The reforms focus on economic growth and job creation.

Senior Advisor and Chair in US-India Policy Studies, Richard Rossow launching the India Reforms Scorecard 3.0 (2024-29) while Research Associate Akshat Singh looks on at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on June 10, 2024, in Washington DC. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

“And every month thereafter we keep an eye so that you can actually track progress and see how many of these big reforms the government undertakes,” Rossow added.

However, the list does not represent the Indian Government’s stated goals. Instead, it reflects the recommendations of external experts, Indian business leaders, trade associations, and economists on what they believe would most significantly boost economic growth, Rossow clarified.

“And we develop this [scorecard] by going through a multiple step process. We do a broad sweep on what others have written about, wishlists, and scorecards of groups such as CII, USIBC, and others…” he said.  “We do a survey of dozens of top economists and business leaders globally, to find out what’s on their minds about different reforms…”

The Scorecard 3.0 lists reforms such as, “Address multiplicity of GST audits for taxpayers registered in different states; Establish a single portal for integrating customs, DGFT, ports, banks, and shipping companies’ submissions; Release annual report detailing origins and destinations for all inbound FDI; Allow more than 50 [per cent] foreign investment in direct retail e-commerce; Free up railways owned unproductive land; Reduce government equity holding in public sector banks to 33 [per cent]; and Enact agriculture modernization laws.”

According to Rossow, these are “a lot of domestic reforms, things that need to be improved on like GST [Goods and Services Tax] consolidating and improving. So, it’s not just the foreign investors wish but it’s actually things that help every Indian.”

CSIS has already released two Scorecards assessing the Modi government’s progress on reforms. The Scorecard 1.0 published in 2014, showed that the government, in its first term, completed nine of the 30 reforms and partially completed another dozen. The Scorecard 2.0 from 2019 reported that the second term implemented six of the 30 reforms with five more partially completed.

While highlighting the slowdown in implementing reforms in the second term, Rossow said, “It gives us at least something to talk about” while also pointing out that the “third term is big” given that Modi has to deal with coalition partners. He further said, “Coalitions are the norm and coalitions have worked extremely well” in the past.

About the recent election results in India, Rossow said, “I avoid getting shocked by any election results in India having been through this for 25 years. You never know what democracy is going to throw up. I had less concerns about the status of Indian democracy.” However, he said it was evident that things were not going as smoothly for the Modi’s BJP as they were sometimes portrayed.

He said Modi will be working with Telugu Desam Party’s Chandrababu Naidu, who supports reforms, and Janata Dal (United)’s Nitish Kumar, who he said, does not have much interest in reforms. However, Rossow mentioned both are eager to see progress in Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, and that Modi will have significant freedom to implement many initiatives.

About his own expectations of the new coalition government, he said Modi will “have a relatively free hand” on non-legislative reforms, and some of the legislative ones will be difficult given BJP’s reduced numbers in Lok Sabha. The government will also have a free hand on defense and security which are not part of the Scorecard 3.0.

While talking about stability, Rossow said it depends on “How often are we going to see threats of confidence votes brought up” adding “That’s one thing we are watching for sure over the next five years.”



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