Arvind Panagariya talk's about India’s growth story on NIJ Podcast

Ananya Awasthi talks to economist Arvind Panagariya who discusses negative growth under UPA, reforms under Rao/Vajpayee, and praises infra expansion and multi-dimensional reforms driven by conviction under current PM.

Arvind Panagariya talk's about India’s growth story on NIJ Podcast

Renowned Indian economist Arvind Panagariya has made profound contributions to economics, policy analysis, and academia over his decades-long career. With a Ph.D. from Princeton, he has held prestigious positions including Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog and Chief Economist of the Asian Development Bank. Panagariya’s scholarship focuses on trade, development, and poverty reduction, shaping India’s economic policies and advocating market reforms. His acclaimed books like “Free Trade and Prosperity” and “India: The Emerging Giant” offer insightful analysis of India’s economic transformation and global trade. Through research, writings, and policy positions, he continues to influence economic discourse in India and beyond.


India’s growth story is a result of a combination of positive reforms and damaging policies, with smart economic management and investment in infrastructure leading to rapid recovery and impressive growth, making India the fifth largest economy.

Key Insights

Economic Growth and Recovery

💪 The v-shaped recovery of India’s economy after a sharp decline is a positive sign, with the growth rate reaching 7.8 percent in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2324.

🌍 Panagariya highlights the dual impact of the pandemic on both demand and supply, emphasizing that simply printing money and giving it to people will not solve the economic challenges caused by the closure of businesses and restrictions on movement.

💰 The Indian government has strategically increased infrastructure spending and shifted towards capital expenditure, which has been a healthy development for the economy.

💰 India is currently the fifth largest economy in the world, surpassing the UK, and is experiencing rapid growth compared to many other countries, some of which are suffering from declining GDP.

📈 According to Arvind Panagariya, India is projected to become the third largest economy by 2026, surpassing Germany and Japan.

💰 The cleanup of banks and corporations in India has resulted in strong corporate and bank balance sheets, promising a bright future.

💡 The reforms implemented by Prime Ministers Vajpayee and Narasimha Rao were instrumental in putting India on a growth trajectory of close to 8%.

🤔 Panagariya believes that Prime Minister Modi will hand over a similarly healthy economy to his successor, indicating his confidence in the future growth of India under Modi’s leadership.

🌍 Arvind Panagariya’s comprehensive overview of the Indian economy provides valuable insights for anyone seeking to understand its growth story since 1991.

Government Initiatives and Policies

📲 Prime Minister Modi has successfully utilized digital technology, such as Aadhar and mobile telephony, to eliminate corruption and deliver benefits to the people, showcasing his commitment to multi-dimensional development.

🌍 Arvind Panagariya has had an illustrious career spanning various pivotal roles, including serving as the vice chairman of Niti Ayog and being India’s G20 Sherpa.

💰 The Indian government wisely increased expenditure and distributed free food to households during the pandemic, preventing high inflation and ensuring people’s basic needs were met.

💡 The Modi government initially started slowly with reforms, but eventually implemented significant reforms such as the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, Goods and Services Tax, and Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, which were positive steps for India’s growth.

Digital Transformation and Innovation

💰 The implementation of the UPI platform in India has revolutionized digital payments, with India now accounting for 40% of all digital payments worldwide.

Long Summary

00:00 📈 The high growth rate during the UPA rule was built on previous reforms, the government’s infrastructure expenditure has led to impressive development, and India’s GDP growth rate has experienced a v-shaped recovery despite doubts surrounding the data.

1.1 The high growth rate during the UPA rule from 2004 to 2014 was actually built on the reforms implemented by Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as the UPA did very little in terms of reforms and Indira Gandhi’s anti-growth policies were adopted by the national advisory council headed by Sonia Gandhi, making it a damaging period for future growth.

1.2 The government’s infrastructure expenditure has led to impressive development in roads, bridges, buildings, airports, railways, and digital technology, resulting in the elimination of corruption and the delivery of benefits to almost 100% of the population.

1.3 Arvind Panagariya, a distinguished economist and recipient of the Padma Bhushan award, discusses India’s growth story in an episode of the NIJ Podcast with Ananya.

1.4 India’s GDP growth rate declined sharply during the April-June 2020 quarter due to the severe lockdown, resulting in a negative growth rate of around 5.8 to 6 percent.

1.5 The Indian economy experienced a sharp decline in GDP growth rate but has since made a v-shaped recovery, with the growth rate remaining reasonably high, which is not surprising given the previous growth trajectory, and a 7.8 percent growth rate in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2324 is completely plausible and anything less would have been a disappointment, considering the significant decline in GDP in the same quarter in 2020.

1.6 The speaker addresses the high growth rate in India’s economy, the doubts surrounding the GDP data, and emphasizes that there is a firewall between the ministry that collects the data and anyone else, refuting allegations of data manipulation.

10:38 📈 The Indian government is accused of exaggerating GDP growth rates, but despite the pandemic, smart economic management and investment in infrastructure have led to a rapid recovery and impressive growth, making India the fifth largest economy.

2.1 The government is exaggerating India’s GDP growth rate by two percentage points each year, which becomes increasingly difficult to sustain over time.

2.2 The skepticism surrounding the legitimacy of GDP figures is unfortunate, and it is important for credible voices to debunk such myths, as GDP is seen as a barometer of overall economic health and the government’s performance.

2.3 The speaker argues that the current government’s economic management during the pandemic, which focused on stimulating demand through cash transfers, was not effective due to the simultaneous supply shock caused by the closure of factories and businesses.

2.4 India’s inflation rate increased to almost 10% due to government spending, but smartly increased food distribution to households, resulting in a relatively rapid recovery in growth, with the growth rate now back to pre-pandemic levels, although still slightly lower than it would have been without the pandemic.

2.5 The government’s investment in infrastructure during the pandemic has been a wise decision, as it not only increased expenditure but also focused on changing the composition of expenditure towards capital expenditure, resulting in a strong foundation for the Indian economy.

2.6 India’s infrastructure development has been impressive, with projects like roads, bridges, airports, and railways, and the country is currently the fifth largest economy, growing rapidly compared to other nations.

27:03 📈 India’s growth story is predicted to make it the third largest economy by 2026, surpassing Germany and Japan, with the potential to become the second largest economy by 2072, but slow job creation and reliance on low-productivity sectors hinder inclusive growth, while South Korea’s success was driven by moving the agricultural workforce into industry and services without relying on social spending.

3.1 India is predicted to become the third largest economy by 2026, surpassing Germany and Japan, and is expected to catch up with China before becoming the second largest economy in 2072, contingent on factors such as peace and global security remaining stable.

3.2 Indian households have experienced significant changes in terms of social safety nets, including cash transfers, food distribution, access to water, housing subsidies, and employment opportunities, leading to improved basic needs and increased per capita incomes.

3.3 India’s growth story has been hindered by slow job creation in industry and services, resulting in a large percentage of the workforce being employed in low-productivity sectors such as agriculture and small enterprises, and the key to achieving inclusive growth lies in the faster growth of manufacturing.

3.4 South Korea’s rapid economic growth and reduction in poverty was driven by the movement of the agricultural workforce into industry and services, without relying on social spending, and India’s current government has inherited existing social spending programs but has focused on improving delivery.

3.5 The Prime Minister effectively used digital technology to eliminate corruption and deliver benefits to the people, with close to 100% of the funds reaching the beneficiaries, compared to only 20% in the past, and there has been a shift towards a cash transfer system to control corruption and increase efficiency.

3.6 Sonia Gandhi was effectively in charge during that time, leading a council that made important decisions.

47:47 💡 Opposing cash transfers instead of the public distribution system is nonsensical, as households can make rational decisions; Modi government should convert Narega expenditure into cash transfers to avoid corruption and build public assets effectively; giving cash directly to households may result in more productive deployment of labor and additional income; Prime Minister Modi’s welfare schemes have first, second, and third order effects; infrastructure spending has significant secondary effects, but primary objective should be creating infrastructure; discussion on India’s growth story, including spending impact, changes in bank health, and financial inclusion for the poor.

4.1 Opposing the replacement of the public distribution system with cash transfers based on the assumption that households will misuse the money is nonsensical, as it punishes the majority for the actions of a few, and households are capable of making rational decisions on how to spend the money for the welfare of their families.

4.2 Replace the public distribution system with cash transfers, as the Modi government has started moving in that direction by introducing a cash transfer scheme, and it would be beneficial to convert the Narega expenditure into cash transfers as well to avoid corruption and effectively build public assets at the village level.

4.3 The speaker questions the effectiveness of using labor to build public assets and suggests that giving cash directly to households may result in more productive deployment of labor and additional income.

4.4 Prime Minister Modi’s first, second, and third order effects of public welfare schemes in India are explained by economist Arvind Panagariya, with the first order effect being the most important as it directly helps the poor, while the second and third order effects involve the circulation of money and creation of employment.

4.5 Infrastructure spending has a significant second and third order effect on the economy as the money circulates, but it is important to focus on the primary objective of creating infrastructure rather than solely considering the secondary effects.

4.6 The speaker discusses the growth story of India, including the impact of spending, changes in bank health over the past decade, and the level of financial inclusion for the poor.

57:41 📈 India’s growth story is driven by initiatives such as Aadhar, mobile phones, and Jandhan accounts, with the UPI platform revolutionizing digital payments, while the government took swift action to address banking issues and promote financial inclusion.

5.1 Irresponsible lending practices by government-owned banks in India led to a large proportion of loans going bad, and both the Modi government and the Reserve Bank of India were slow to react to the problem.

5.2 Borrowers and bankers in India were engaging in repeated loan restructurings to avoid classifying bad loans, leading to a collapse in credit growth in the public sector until the Prime Minister intervened in 2017.

5.3 The Indian government took swift action to address banking issues, resulting in the cleanup of banks and corporations, leading to strong corporate and bank balance sheets, and the narrowing gap between private and public sector bank valuations, while the digital infrastructure has played a significant role in promoting financial inclusion.

5.4 India’s growth story is driven by initiatives such as Aadhar, mobile phones, and Jandhan accounts, with the UPI platform revolutionizing digital payments and making transactions faster and more efficient than in other countries.

5.5 India’s growth story and economic reforms under different prime ministers, including Prime Minister Vajpayee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, played a significant role in putting India on a growth trajectory of close to 8% and the UPA government’s reforms were limited to retaining the tariff rate reduction and trimming the list of items reserved for small enterprises.

5.6 He tends to be skeptical, but his analysis is solid and unbiased, as he was critical of the government’s actions within a short period of time.

01:17:23 📈 India’s growth story has been impacted by a mix of positive reforms and damaging policies, including increased budget expenditures, fiscal deficits, crony lending, bad loans, retrospective taxation, and hindrances in land acquisition laws, leading to challenges in infrastructure projects and decision-making processes.

6.1 India’s growth rate was initially boosted by reforms implemented by previous prime ministers, but in the second term, budget expenditures increased, fiscal deficits expanded, crony lending expanded, bad loans increased, and retrospective taxation occurred.

6.2 The introduction of a retrospective law by Mukherjee caused collateral damage to other companies and damaged India’s credibility as an investment destination, while the land acquisition law from colonial times allowed for abuse, leading to a new law that went in the opposite direction.

6.3 Land acquisition laws in India have hindered the Modi government’s ability to build infrastructure projects, as the process has become more difficult and costly, attracting land mafia, and despite attempts to amend the laws in 2015, it has not been touched since.

6.4 The speaker discusses the challenges of withdrawing social programs once they are implemented, as even if a superior program is introduced, the media tends to focus on the withdrawal of the old program rather than the new one.

6.5 The Prime Minister successfully navigated the subsidy on LPG cylinders, but the expansion of deficits and introduction of high custom duty on gold led to inflation, current account imbalance, and smuggling, while infrastructure projects were stuck due to environmental clearances and corruption cases against officers, resulting in a jammed decision-making process.

6.6 Arvind Panagariya discusses the impact of different prime ministers on India’s growth, highlighting the damaging period under Sonia Gandhi’s leadership and the positive reforms implemented by Narendra Modi, including bank cleanup, insolvency and bankruptcy court, goods and services tax, and the real estate regulatory authority.

01:36:51 📈 Reforms implemented in India’s second term, including tax reduction and foreign investment liberalization, but labor law implementation for manufacturing has been delayed; privatization and growth under Modi government highlighted, with focus on economic reforms and human-centric development.

7.1 Reforms were implemented in India’s second term, including a reduction in corporate profit tax, changes in MSME definitions, and liberalization of foreign investment, but the implementation of labor laws, crucial for manufacturing, has been delayed.

7.2 Privatization of Air India and other reforms have taken place in India, although privatization should have happened faster according to the speaker.

7.3 The government has announced plans to privatize various sectors, including banks, but the implementation has been delayed despite the adoption of a policy for public enterprises.

7.4 The speaker discusses the growth of India’s economy under the current government, highlighting the improvements made in terms of policies and repealing anti-growth measures, and expresses confidence that Prime Minister Modi will hand over a healthy economy to his successor.

7.5 The Prime Minister of India is a multi-dimensional leader who focuses on geographical development, technology-driven initiatives, and overall economic growth and reforms.

7.6 India’s growth story under the Modi government includes reforms in laws, a focus on human-centric development, and a unique approach to addressing issues such as cleanliness and saturation.

01:48:02 💡 Achieving progress in access to water and electricity is possible by setting realistic goals and deadlines, as discussed in a comprehensive overview of India’s economic growth story from 1991 to 2023, emphasizing evidence-informed policy.

8.1 Achieving 100% access to water and electricity may not always be possible, but significant progress can still be made by setting realistic goals and deadlines.

8.2 The speaker provides a comprehensive overview of India’s economic growth story from 1991 to 2023, highlighting the different governments and their impact, and emphasizes the importance of evidence-informed policy.


Q1: How has infrastructure development fared under Prime Minister Modi compared to the UPA government?

A1: Infrastructure development under Prime Minister Modi has been impressive. The government has focused on increasing expenditure and spending towards capital, leading to significant progress in infrastructure projects across the country. This emphasis on infrastructure development has been a vital component of the government’s economic growth strategy. While the UPA government’s contributions to infrastructure development were minimal, the current government has made substantial efforts to improve the state of infrastructure in India, which has positively impacted the overall growth and development of the country.

Q2: What were the concerns and doubts surrounding GDP data in recent years?

A2: Doubts about the accuracy of GDP growth rates have been present since 2017. These concerns arose primarily due to doubts and skepticism regarding the methodology used for calculating GDP, particularly in terms of capturing the informal sector’s contribution to the economy. These doubts were further fueled by doubts and debates surrounding the accurate measurement of economic growth during the pandemic. Exaggerating GDP figures can create skepticism and doubts in the minds of the people, highlighting the importance of accurate and reliable GDP data.

Q3: How has the Indian government addressed poverty and provided support to poor households?

A3: The government has implemented several initiatives to provide support to poor households and address poverty. One of these initiatives includes the provision of food support through programs like the Public Distribution System (PDS), where poor households receive approximately 25 kg of food per month. Additionally, there has been a shift from a food distribution system to a cash transfer system to address issues of corruption and inefficiency. This change allows poor households to receive financial support, which provides them with income, generates extra employment, and has a positive impact on poverty reduction.

Q4: What have been the major reforms implemented during Prime Minister Modi’s tenure?

A4: Prime Minister Modi’s tenure has been characterized by significant reforms in various sectors. Some of the prominent reforms include the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which aimed to simplify India’s complex tax structure and enhance ease of doing business. The introduction of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) aimed to address the issues of non-performing assets and promote a healthy banking system. Real estate reforms were also undertaken to bring transparency and accountability to the sector. These reforms have played a crucial role in shaping India’s economic landscape and fostering growth and development.

Note - This content is generated by AI, we believe it is accurate, but we don’t claim any liability of inaccuracies in the AI generated content.

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