Indian Economy under the Reforms: Growth, Poverty and Inequality, 1991 to 2010

Guest lecture by Professor Venkatesh Athreya, MSSRF, Chennai, India.

Abstract of a presentation

When far reaching economic reforms were initiated in India in 1991, under pressure from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, following an economic crisis, the official view was initially one of hesitation and uncertainty.

Soon, with the ascendancy of the neoliberal tendency in policymaking, the reforms began to be marketed as not only necessary because of the crisis and Fund-bank pressure, but as desirable in themselves. Over the next two decades, a recurrent official refrain has been the so-called ‘India Growth Story', with the claim that, next to China, the Indian economy was the world's fastest growing economy.

However, political developments in India throughout these two decades have indicated greater ambivalence among the people about the reforms, and growth itself has not been uniform. More to the point, it is widely recognized now that the growth has been highly inequalizing and has not seriously addressed the problems of poverty, unemployment and rising inequality, as well as the key question of food security. The reforms period, especially in the last decade when people had had time to recover from the initial onslaught of reforms, has seen a significant rise in social and political movements seeking to promote basic economic and social-political entitlements of the people. One can view the movements for right to information, right to food, right of tribals to forest land, struggles against large scale displacement of people and handing over of land and other natural resources to large private capital, Indian and foreign, and most recently, the movement against corruption, as indicative of a widespread state of ferment and increasing disenchantment with neoliberal reforms even among the middle classes that have benefited from the reforms.

My presentation will provide a statistical overview of the performance of the Indian economy since 1991 in terms of growth, poverty, employment and food security, and hopefully open up a debate on some key questions pertaining to the narrative briefly outlined here.

Following the lecture there will be time for Q&A.

Chair: Stig Toft Madsen 

All are welcome!