PM's ability to deliver handicapped by party politics, says Jagdish Bh

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    Jagdish Bhagwati on reforms in India and outsourcing issue raised by Obama.

    PM's ability to deliver handicapped by party politics, says Jagdish Bhagwati

    NEW DELHI: Renowned economist and globalisation buff Jagdish N Bhagwati says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's hands are tied because India's political system is similar to that of the former Soviet Union, where the party was supreme and the chief of government just a figurehead.

    "My wife (Padma Desai), who is a Russian expert, gives me good insights. In Russia (in the time of communist party rule), the party was all-important. The president was a figurehead. We have never had that (in India). Now thanks to (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi, the party is entirely important and the prime minister is at the receiving end," says the Mumbai-born Indian-American economist.

    The professor of economics and law at Columbia University adds that the "power shifting completely to the party" has taken a huge toll on reforms.

    "His (Singh's) ability to deliver reforms is handicapped by the fact that the people in favour of track-II reforms (social spending, etc) around Ms Gandhi are not appreciative of the fact that track-I reforms (growth-oriented initiatives) are absolutely necessary, that we need to intensify and broaden them to continue making a direct impact on poverty and generating revenues (for welfare schemes)," says Bhagwati.

    The author of books as seminal as In Defence of Globalisation and The Wind of the Hundred Days: How Washington Mismanaged Globalisation declined to name the people "around Ms Gandhi", saying he was "talking about the system, not people".

    SLOW 'OUTSOURCING' POISON
    While "this is the (political) tragedy India is currently facing", Indians in the US too are facing a sad predicament thanks to misleading propaganda over outsourcing, Bhagwati says.

    He argues that though outsourcing is hardly the reason for joblessness in the US, President Barack Obama's "continuous condemnation" is leading to Indians getting a bad name in the US.

    What is laughable is that Indian lobbies don't understand political games that American politicians play, he rues. "He (Obama) actually won the election largely because he was continuously condemning outsourcing, which he knows is an absurd position. But it is a populist position. He got a lot of mileage out of it apart from helping out Hispanics on immigration. There, too, he played politics. He did it in a way our Indian lobbies don't even understand because he gave what is known as the Dream Act, which is designed in such a way that young children who had come with their parents and had lived in the US for a certain number of years are given work permits, essentially. If you look at who was being helped, you find more than 80% are Hispanics. It was aimed only at the Hispanics. You saw Indian lobbies also celebrating. You see, they don't understand this," Bhagwati says, laughing.

    The campaign against outsourcing is a steady poison, notes Bhagwati, emphasising that anti-Indian feelings are very much in the air in the US. "Our lobbies are doing nothing about it. You know there is this streak in us that we don't face reality," says the 78-year-old professor, who is currently in India.


    "Someone has to tell Obama: look you've won your election. Stop talking about outsourcing. It complicates relations," he says.
     
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