Four years of Modi government: Riding on GST, insolvency law
The scale of Narendra Modi's victory in the Lok Sabha elections four years ago, on May 16, 2014, was such that many observers believed a long-delayed course of economic reform would be implemented, using an unprecedented Lok Sabha majority in recent years. In the years since, Modi's government has lived up to expectations in terms of the amount of energy it has brought to policymaking — but its record is divided between hits and misses.
Politically, Modi's most important economic achievement has been the taming inflation since 2014. In this, his government has been helped by the collapse in oil prices since he took office, and that has reduced prices all-round. But the government has also been careful about increasing minimum support prices to farmers, which has helped control food inflation.
The most lasting economic achievement of this government is surely be the introduction of the goods and services tax or GST — a comprehensive reworking of the entire indirect tax structure in India, which required a political consensus and a constitutional amendment. While glitches attended its roll-out and the tax is not as simple as originally planned, many hope the GST Council will stabilise the tax and improve the tax-GDP ratio.
In terms of reforming welfare-focused economic schemes, the Modi government focused on increasing the efficiency of the transfer pipeline, using what it called the JAM trinity — short for Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and mobile connectivity. The number of basic bank accounts under the Jan Dhan scheme has vastly increased, as has the coverage of Aadhaar. While the legal challenges to Aadhaar are yet to be settled, there is no doubt that the architecture for direct benefit transfers has been established.
The government will also point to its road-building record and the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) scheme, which transferred the debt of electricity utilities to the books of state governments, allowing them to buy and supply power once again. But more influential perhaps will be the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), a big step towards greater flexibility for capital.