LIBERALISATION, PRIVATISATION AND GLOBALISATION
|LIBERALISATION, PRIVATISATION AND GLOBALISATION In Economics|
The origin of the financial crisis can be traced from the inefficient management of the Indian economy in the 1980s. We know that for implementing various policies and its general administration, the government generates funds from various sources such as taxation, running of public sector enterprises etc. When expenditure is more than income, the government borrows to finance the deficit from banks and also from people within the country and from international financial institutions. When we import goods like petroleum, we pay in dollars which we earn from our exports.
Development policies required that even though the revenues were very low, the government had to overshoot its revenue to meet challenges like unemployment, poverty and population explosion. The continued spending on development programmes of the government did not generate additional revenue. Moreover, the government was not able to generate sufficiently from internal sources such as taxation. When the government was spending a large share of its income on areas which do not provide immediate returns such as the social sector and defence, there was a need to utilise the rest of its revenue in a highly efficient manner. The income from public sector undertakings was also not very high to meet the growing expenditure. At times, our foreign exchange, borrowed from other countries and international financial institutions, was spent on meeting consumption needs. Neither was an attempt made to reduce such profligate spending nor sufficient attention was given to boost exports to pay for the growing imports.
In the late 1980s, government expenditure began to exceed its revenue by such large margins that meeting the expenditure through borrowings became unsustainable. Prices of many essential goods rose sharply. Imports grew at a very high rate without matching growth of exports. As pointed out earlier, foreign exchange reserves declined to a level that was not adequate to finance imports for more than two weeks. There was also not sufficient foreign exchange to pay the interest that needs to be paid to international lenders. Also no country or international funder was willing to lend to India.
India approached the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), popularly known as World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and received $7 billion as loan to manage the crisis. For availing the loan, these international agencies expected India to liberalise and open up the economy by removing restrictions on the private sector, reduce the role of the government in many areas and remove trade restrictions between India and other countries.
India agreed to the conditionalities of World Bank and IMF and announced the New Economic Policy (NEP). The NEP consisted of wide ranging economic reforms. The thrust of the policies was towards creating a more competitive environment in the economy and removing the barriers to entry and growth of firms. This set of policies can broadly be classified into two groups: the stabilisation measures and the structural reform measures. Stabilisation measures are short-term measures, intended to correct some of the weaknesses that have developed in the balance of payments and to bring inflation under control. In simple words, this means that there was a need to maintain sufficient foreign exchange reserves and keep the rising prices under control. On the other hand, structural reform policies are long-term measures, aimed at improving the efficiency of the economy and increasing its international competitiveness by removing the rigidities in various segments of the Indian economy. The government initiated a variety of policies which fall under three heads viz., liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.
As pointed out in the beginning, rules and laws which were aimed at regulating the economic activities became major hindrances in growth and development. Liberalisation was introduced to put an end to these restrictions and open various sectors of the economy. Though a few liberalisation measures were introduced in 1980s in areas of industrial licensing, export-import policy, technology upgradation, fiscal policy and foreign investment, reform policies initiated in 1991 were more comprehensive. Let us study some important areas, such as the industrial sector, financial sector, tax reforms, foreign exchange markets and trade and investment sectors which received greater attention in and after 1991.
Deregulation of Industrial Sector: In India, regulatory mechanisms were enforced in various ways (i) industrial licensing under which every entrepreneur had to get permission from government officials to start a firm, close a firm or decide the amount of goods that could be produced (ii) private sector was not allowed in many industries (iii) some goods could be produced only in small-scale industries, and (iv) controls on price fixation and distribution of selected industrial products.
The reform policies introduced in and after 1991 removed many of these restrictions. Industrial licensing was abolished for almost all but product categories — alcohol, cigarettes, hazardous chemicals, industrial explosives, electronics, aerospace and drugs and pharma-ceuticals. The only industries which are now reserved for the public sector are a part of defence equipment, atomic energy generation and railway transport. Many goods produced by small-scale industries have now been dereserved. In many industries, the market has been allowed to determine the prices.
Financial Sector Reforms: Financial sector includes financial institutions, such as commercial banks, investment banks, stock exchange operations and foreign exchange market. The financial sector in India is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). You may be aware that all banks and other financial institutions in India are regulated through various norms and regulations of the RBI. The RBI decides the amount of money that the banks can keep with themselves, fixes interest rates, nature of lending to various sectors, etc. One of the major aims of financial sector reforms is to reduce the role of RBI from regulator to facilitator of financial sector. This means that the financial sector may be allowed to take decisions on many matters without consulting the RBI.
The reform policies led to the establishment of private sector banks, Indian as well as foreign. Foreign investment limit in banks was raised to around 50 per cent. Those banks which fulfil certain conditions have been given freedom to set up new branches without the approval of the RBI and rationalise their existing branch networks. Though banks have been given permission to generate resources from India and abroad, certain managerial aspects have been retained with the RBI to safeguard the interests of the account-holders and the nation. Foreign Institutional Investors (FII), such as merchant bankers, mutual funds and pension funds, are now allowed to invest in Indian financial markets.
Tax Reforms: Tax reforms are concerned with the reforms in the government’s taxation and public expenditure policies, which are collectively known as its fiscal policy. There are two types of taxes: direct and indirect. Direct taxes consist of taxes on incomes of individuals, as well as, profits of business enterprises. Since 1991, there has been a continuous reduction in the taxes on individual incomes as it was felt that high rates of income tax were an important reason for tax evasion. It is now widely accepted that moderate rates of income tax encourage savings and voluntary disclosure of income. The rate of corporation tax, which was very high earlier, has been gradually reduced. Efforts have also been made to reform the indirect taxes, taxes levied on commodities, in order to facilitate the establishment of a common national market for goods and commodities. Another component of reforms in this area is simplification. In order to encourage better compliance on the part of taxpayers many procedures have been simplified and the rates also substantially lowered. Recently, the Parliament passed a law, Goods and Services Tax Act 2016, to simplify and introduce a unified indirect tax system in India. This law came into effect from July 2017. This is expected to generate additional revenue for the government, reduce tax evasion and create ‘one nation, one tax and one market’.
Foreign Exchange Reforms: The first important reform in the external sector was made in the foreign exchange market. In 1991, as an immediate measure to resolve the balance of payments crisis, the rupee was devalued against foreign currencies. This led to an increase in the inflow of foreign exchange. It also set the tone to free the determination of rupee value in the foreign exchange market from government control. Now, more often than not, markets determine exchange rates based on the demand and supply of foreign exchange.
Trade and Investment Policy Reforms: Liberalisation of trade and investment regime was initiated to increase international competitiveness of industrial production and also foreign investments and technology into the economy. The aim was also to promote the efficiency of local industries and adoption of modern technologies.
In order to protect domestic industries, India was following a regime of quantitative restrictions on imports. This was encouraged through tight control over imports and by keeping the tariffs very high. These policies reduced efficiency and competitiveness which led to slow growth of the manufacturing sector. The trade policy reforms aimed at (i) dismantling of quantitative restrictions on imports and exports (ii) reduction of tariff rates and (iii) removal of licensing procedures for imports. Import licensing was abolished except in case of hazardous and environmentally sensitive industries. Quantitative restrictions on imports of manufactured consumer goods and agricultural products were also fully removed from April 2001. Export duties have been removed to increase the competitive position of Indian goods in the international markets.
It implies shedding of the ownership or management of a government owned enterprise. Government companies are converted into private companies in two ways (i) by withdrawal of the government from ownership and management of public sector companies and or (ii) by outright sale of public sector companies.
Privatisation of the public sector enterprises by selling off part of the equity of PSEs to the public is known as disinvestment. The purpose of the sale, according to the government,was mainly to improve financial discipline and facilitate modernisation. It was also envisaged that private capital and managerial capabilities could be effectively utilised to improve the performance of the PSUs. The government envisaged that privatisation could provide strong impetus to the inflow of FDI.
Although globalisation is generally understood to mean integration of the economy of the country with the world economy, it is a complex phenomenon. It is an outcome of the set of various policies that are aimed at transforming the world towards greater interdependence and integration. It involves creation of networks and activities transcending economic, social and geographical boundaries. Globalisation attempts to establish links in such a way that the happenings in India can be influenced by events happening miles away. It is turning the world into one whole or creating a borderless world.
Outsourcing: This is one of the important outcomes of the globalisation process. In outsourcing, a company hires regular service from external sources, mostly from other countries, which was previously provided internally or from within the country (like legal advice, computer service, advertisement, security — each provided by respective departments of the company). As a form of economic activity, outsourcing has intensified, in recent times, because of the growth of fast modes of communication, particularly the growth of Information Technology (IT). Many of the services such as voice-based business processes (popularly known as BPO or call centres), record keeping, accountancy, banking services, music recording, film editing, book transcription, clinical advice or even teaching are being outsourced by companies in developed countries to India. With the help of modern telecommunication links including the Internet, the text, voice and visual data in respect of these services is digitised and transmitted in real time over continents and national boundaries.
Most multinational corporations, and even small companies, are outsourcing their services to India where they can be availed at a cheaper cost with reasonable degree of skill and accuracy. The low wage rates and availability of skilled manpower in India have made it a destination for global outsourcing in the post-reform period.
World Trade Organisation (WTO):
The WTO was founded in 1995 as the successor organisation to the General Agreement on Trade and Tariff (GATT). GATT was established in 1948 with 23 countries as the global trade organisation to administer all multilateral trade agreements by providing equal opportunities to all countries in the international market for trading purposes. WTO is expected to establish a rule-based trading regime in which nations cannot place arbitrary restrictions on trade. In addition, its purpose is also to enlarge production and trade of services, to ensure optimum utilisation of world resources and to protect the environment. The WTO agreements cover trade in goods as well as services to facilitate international trade (bilateral and multilateral) through removal of tariff as well as non-tariff barriers and providing greater market access to all member countries.
As an important member of WTO, India has been in the forefront of framing fair global rules, regulations and safeguards and advocating the interests of the developing world. India has kept its commitments towards liberalisation of trade, made in the WTO, by removing quantitative restrictions on imports and reducing tariff rates.
Some scholars question the usefulness of India being a member of the WTO as a major volume of international trade occurs among the developed nations. They also say that while developed countries file complaints over agricultural subsidies given in their countries, developing countries feel cheated as they are forced to open their markets for developed countries but are not allowed access to the markets of developed countries. What do you think?