18th June 2017
Draft introductory two minutes at a session of the India meeting at Interlaken next weekend
According to the Horasis conference arrangements I’ll get 2 minutes to introduce myself and thereafter will be asked a range of questions regarding the Indian economy by the chair of the session.
The introduction will therefore be very important to set the scene.
I had a few minutes to dictate an outline into my mobile phone earlier today. I’m putting this draft out for comment – in case anyone has time to review and provide suggestions for improvement. Note that this may be longer than 2 minutes so I’ll speak impromptu depending on the time available.
In 1982 I started a career in the IAS. But 18 years later I resigned. Since then I have lived and worked in Australia. For well over a decade now I have been advising the government of Victoria on matters of economic policy.
I think the best introduction I can offer is that I’m a man on a mission. I had this boss a few years ago who continuously saw me spend every minute of my spare time focusing on reforms for India. This is what he called me – a man on a mission.
I think the mission I have is something I hope all of you would see as worth having, by the end of this session. My mission is simple: to not only only make India a First World country but take it well beyond any other nation.
For a very long time now I have been extremely dissatisfied with the way the Indian governance system works. Twenty years ago a realisation dawned upon me that India’s miserable performance is not an immutable law of the world.
I decided that I was no longer going to accept the idea that my political masters – to whom I reported then – must necessarily be corrupt.
I decided that I would no longer accept the idea that 50 years after independence we still make excuses while the rest of the developing world – which started well behind India – has gone far ahead.
I must mention the role of a South Korean student at the University of Southern California who brought the final sea change in my perspective about what one should be doing with one’s life.
We were standing one day below the Economics building at the university, having a smoke. Yes – I used to smoke at that time once in a while. This Korean student asked me why is it that Indian students are so intelligent and yet India is in a miserable condition.
This is a common question, and we always have excuses. First I pointed out that our political leaders are utterly useless and corrupt. Then I also pointed out that our bureaucracy is hopelessly arrogant, incompetent and corrupt.
In this way I pointed the blame at others. I was let off from this blame.
But later on that night I thought about this a bit more and asked myself – is this all that’s there to life? Pointing fingers at others? Do we not somehow need to take responsibility at some level for the state of affairs in India?
It had already become clear to me over the first fifteen years of my service in the IAS that there was simply no one out there in India who was interested in reforms. Even the 1991 reforms had no owner – and we all know how ridiculously feeble these reforms had been.
India needed extraordinary reforms of governance and of economic policy. And yet all our political parties were wedded to the idea of socialism.
I had long questioned the idea of socialism but it had became very clear to me towards the end of my doctoral studies in the USA that socialism – the root cause of India’s governance failures – had to go.
And so I decided that day that India needs a liberal political party – grounded in the philosophy of liberty – to implement the much-needed reforms. Since then, from February 1998, except for a short period of time, I have consistently focused on this goal.
I will not go through the trials and tribulations I have experienced on this journey. Suffice it to stay that from around July 2016 we have now got a real and functioning liberal political party in India – the Swarna Bharat Party. A couple of months ago I wrote an article about this party in the Times of India. A copy is available [specify where] if you are interested.
This new party is not yet well known among Indians nor does it have a large number of followers – yet.
BUT here is the point. We must reach for the skies. We can’t be happy scraping bottom of the barrel. That is not good enough.
Getting to the top is not an impossible job. It is a difficult but not impossible job.
Many nations across the world have successfully overcome the hurdles on the way to becoming of first one nation.
This will require changing the way we function, the way we think. And will require funding and promoting the message.
It need not have taken me 20 years to reach this stage for a country the size of India where so many people know exactly how progress is actually achieved. We have some of the smartest brains in the world, some of the most innovative business leaders.
But what is needed is the determination to change. We need to determine that this miserable situation cannot be allowed to continue.
What I have managed to do over the past 20 years is to work towards and finally be part of a team that created this platform on which the best leaders of India can assemble and take India forward.
Now it is up to all of you assembled here to put your best foot forward and to start supporting this party that is determined to make a real difference.
The engine of the party – it’s manifesto – has been built. It is a wonderful manifesto, on par or better than the best in the world. Nothing like it has ever been written in India before. I invite you to download it from the party’s website and to read it.
The party now awaits the energy and ownership of all of you and your families and your relatives and your friends.
This party was never about me. It is only about India. My focus has been to build strong nternal systems as well as the policy frameworks that will take this party forward.
We want the very best talent of India to come on board and start experimenting with different ways of communicating the message to the people.
It is not up to me to tell you how to communicate the message. Neither is it for me to tell you how to win elections.
In fact the answers to your questions all lie within you. I can definitely try to answer some of your questions but I know that when you get involved you will find better answers then I can possibly give.
So my main message today is that this party – which was sorely needed by India even in the 1950s -has finally arrived.
This is the party with a vision for India – a vision that no one has ever articulated before. It is a party of liberty. It is party of integrity.
India has been going through a learning curve of democratic functioning. We have made many mistakes. We have spent seventy years experimenting with socialism.
And yet we are a democracy. That is our strength. We have the opportunity now to change India’s direction. Let us give liberty a chance.
I look forward to participating in this session and meeting as many of you as possible during this meeting.
I would like to thank xxx for inviting me here.