The author of this edited volume, Sanjaya Baru correctly highlights uncertainty as the key problem caused by COVID-19. But the eminent economists who have contributed to this volume have largely ignored it. Most of them have analysed the situation as it existed sometime in the later part of 2020. But the situation has been overtaken by the onset of the ferocious second wave starting mid-February. The articles may be taken as presenting the thinking in key circles at that time.
The articles are split up into six sections. The first consisting of seven articles is titled ‘Managing Growth and Uncertainty’. This set of articles focus largely on the macroeconomic aspects but only one of them looks at uncertainty. The second section consists of three articles and is titled ‘The Fiscal Dimension’. This section looks mostly at the important issue of federalism but does not really focus on the fiscal challenges of a lockdown and the impact on the budgets of the Centre and the States or at the level of deficit that can be sustained in an extreme crisis that the country faced.
The third section titled ‘Pandemic and the People’ consists of two articles. This section could have easily been merged with the fifth section titled ‘Employment and Migration’. These sections deal with the impact of the pandemic on a vast majority of the people of the country. The fourth section titled ‘Trade Policy’ consists of two articles. This is an important aspect of the ‘new normal’ that the world is headed towards but it misses out on an analysis of the likelihood of deglobalization and a relook at the current development paradigm. The last section titled ‘New Economy’ does talk of changes in the post-pandemic economy but from a pre-COVID perspective. So, the section does not offer any new perspective.
C Rangarajan and DK Srivastava in ‘Emerging from The Pandemic’s Shadow’ argue that lockdown has put a break on the economy which is in urgent need of a kick-start but suggest caution on its extent. Subramanian Swamy blames the ‘vikas’ model of the present government for the problems faced by the economy that have been aggravated by the pandemic. He suggests course correction—abolishing income tax and reducing the annual interest rate to 9% to boost ‘the morale of the consumer and investor’ (p. 37).
Bibek Debroy argues that it is difficult to assess the path the economy may take due to the prevailing uncertainty. He feels that the reform agenda has been furthered by the Atmanirbhar Bharat package. He hopes that there ‘will be new ways we think of India’ (p. 51) but does not spell out the new normal we are headed to. Rajiv Kumar and Ajit Pai laud the path-breaking reforms carried out by the government and hope that enterprises will attain a global scale and competitiveness and ‘India’s economy could resume and sustain double-digit growth for the next three decades’ (p. 65).