A Decade of Economic Reforms in India: The Unfinished Agenda

CID Faculty Working Paper No. 89

Nirupam Bajpai
March 2002


This paper aims to assess the economic reforms in India undertaken during the 1990s. India has gone through the first decade of her reform process. Hence, an assessment of what has been achieved so far and what remains on the reform agenda is in order. Reforms in the industrial, trade, and financial sectors, among others, have been wide and deep. As a consequence, they have contributed more meaningfully in attaining higher rates of growth.

A decade of opening of the economy has produced new dynamism, most dramatically in the information technology sector, but in others as well. The new technologies (especially information technology and biotechnology) give new opportunities for economic and social development. It is necessary to move swiftly to complete many of the reforms, which are now underway. Examples of such continuing reforms are the reduction in protection levels, continuing reforms in banking sector, product de-reservation for the small-scale industry, decontrol of prices, such as petroleum, reform of the power sector and so on. Among other things, sustaining higher rates of economic growth would require a more vigorous pursuit of economic reforms at both the federal and state levels. Significant reduction of fiscal deficit is the first order of business. Unless substantial fiscal consolidation is achieved, in our view, continued fiscal deficits pose India's greatest risk to future destabilization. Other critical reforms include, labor laws, exit policy, privatization of state-owned enterprises, further opening-up of the economy to trade and foreign direct investment. In addition, there is a vast amount of economic reform that can be carried out to improve conditions in rural India, especially in the Gangetic valley.

The reforms implemented so far have helped India attain 6 plus percent growth, however, should India be able to implement the remaining reforms and re-orient governmental spending away from inessential expenditures towards high priority areas of health and education and infrastructure development, then it is very likely to attain and sustain even higher rates of economic growth.

Keywords: India's economic reforms, unfinished reform agenda