Aakriti BansalMBA Student at IMT Ghaziabad, Economics Graduate
The year 2020 began with the outspread of the pandemic COVID-19 and is likely to witness an end with disastrous socio-economic and political crisis in the worst affected countries. There have been more than 9 million cases and half a million deaths throughout the world leading to a global slowdown resulting in long lasting damage on development and growth.
With the world output growth growing at its slowest pace of 2.9% in 2019 since the global financial crisis in 2009, COVID-19 emanated as an uninvited guest to the already strained economic conditions of the world. The economy of India had already been on a downturn since 2016, GDP growth rate hitting an all-time low of 5% in 2019 after 2008 (3.09%), on top of which the current economic system had to face the unprecedented impact that COVID-19 brings along.
However, it can be expected that the Indian economy experiences a v-shaped growth post lockdown as can be deduced from Fitch Ratings, provided the government takes necessary measures to avoid further deterioration of its financial sector keeping its policies relevant and in alignment to the strained times we all find ourselves stuck in.
Not only did the onset of COVID-19 make us question our way of living but also made us realize the importance of staying relevant in changing times. There has been a dramatic shift in the ways we lived, worked, or relaxed since the implementation of the lockdown on 25th March 2020, adapting to these changes, though has been tough for us, but is precisely what we require to cope with the ongoing crisis. It has always been nature adjusting to all human needs however, the recent times have shown us how technology has helped us align with nature.
The world took a leap from traditional to modern approaches almost instantly. We all immediately inculcated the use of technology to keep upbeat with the changing times with the corporates advancing themselves to keep the business going. Witnessing a swift shift from in-room meetings to online conference calls, employers were surprised to explore the beauty of a long-underestimated idea that is work from home. The concept rose to the occasion, giving us whatever little ray of hope that was left.
What piques interest, however is that not just the citizens, but the Indian government too has modernized its practices and initiatives. One such initiative that finds its way into this article amongst others is the government e-market place (GeM). GeM, launched in 2016, was another take of the Modi’s government on corruption. It was to make all government departments buy all their goods and services from a single digital platform to make public procurement transparent and efficient.
GeM 4.0 recently saw sales worth Rs. 400 Crore of COVID-19 related items with the state governments of Uttar Pradesh and Delhi making maximum purchases of Rs. 105 Cr and Rs. 75 Cr respectively. GeM has not only provided relief amid the pandemic but is also helping millions of Indians earn an earnest livelihood in these adverse times of the economy.
The portal currently has over 4 Lac sellers with the government planning to onboard more than 50 Lac artisans and weavers, products from MSMEs, craftsmen, SHGs on the platform in the coming times. The government is also making it mandatory for the sellers to put the country of origin on the products being listed on the digital platform to encourage the use of ‘made in India’ goods and in an effort to weed out the Chinese products.
GeM looks like a gem of an initiative since it is a great measure towards ‘self-reliant India’ and ‘Make in India’ initiatives. But are we doing enough?
With the GDP growth rate projected to fall to negative in 2020-21, substantially more government initiatives are required to get the economy back on its feet. With government spending and reduced interest rates as the only hope to influx the economy with liquidity, the government right now is endowed with a huge responsibility to invest in sectors like manufacturing, tourism, R&D, infrastructure etc. to surge employment and spending.
Currently, in India, the investment on R&D is about 0.7% of GDP which is far lower as compared to other nations. With improper infrastructure and lack of expertise, boycotting China or reducing the use of Chinese goods to a great extent does not seem as the ultimate solution, however, making India self-reliant does, which should precisely be the iterating point, to shift the focus from ‘boycott’ to ‘production’.
Sectors like IT, telecommunication, manufacturing etc., with the capacity to do mass employment, must be focused on. Newer areas like Artificial Intelligence, Electric Vehicles and Online Education must be given a chance and the desired attention to create more employment and more avenues of income in the country. More e-governance initiatives and employment schemes are required along with privatisation of more sectors like coal mining etc.
The need of the hour demands the present government’s focus to shift from reforms to employment. Since economic growth without social progress lets the great majority of people remain in poverty, while a privileged few reap the benefits of rising abundance. And as Benjamin Franklin rightly said, ‘when men are employed, they are best contented’.
By Aakriti Bansal; the author is an MBA student at IMT Ghaziabad. All views expressed are personal.
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