We have now entered a new financial year, and it is important to remember to stay vigilant against all emerging risks to the economy. Despite the politics being played by some vested interests, a vibrant market for vaccines is emerging, and there is reason to believe that India’s immunization programme will serve as a role model for much of the developing world. Now that private facilities have been enlisted for a wider effort, we should be able to soon see results. This is a privatization plan heralding the rise of the Indian elephant and ensuring that the show will go on. The Prime Minister’s assertion that the government has no business to be in business, is timely and reassuring. It shows that a new era is emerging, in which attitudes are changing and nation-building is taking on a different meaning.
Covid has forced us to reconsiderinterpreting the complex relationship between development and the environment. The preservation of nature has emerged as a critical factor for facilitating socioeconomic growth in a more sustainable and resilient manner. Agriculture and allied activities continue to remain the backbone of the Indian economy, and the development of rural areas has to remain our topmost policy priority. In this regard, prompt action is needed to protect the health of our fragile ecosystem services, while simultaneously promoting broad-based development models that look beyond economic growth. Nature can be our strongest ally in the ongoing battle with global warming and climate change, and this may necessitate a collaborative approach at the regional or global levels to be truly successful.
Investing in nature-compatible solutions will promote food and water security, integrated natural resources management, resilience to climate change, and sustainable agricultural practices. Such solutions matter even more in marginalized rural areas, in order to promote equitable green development, reduce wealth inequalities, and address the growing urban-rural divide. All such solutions also should have a powerful technological component attached to them, one which is not only environmentally-friendly, but also provides the productivity tools necessary for sustainable socioeconomic development.
Amid growing budgetary pressures, government will need to successfully mobilize private finance along with public investments. The perception of policy, regulatory and institutional risks has led to limited international investment in India, and this is likely to continue even after the pandemic, especially considering the increased debt and fiscal pressures that we will be facing then. The government can influence the risk profile of infrastructure investments and manage environmental and social risks through calculated interventions. Policymakers need to begin deliberating right away on various strategies to that end.
Unlike most natural disasters, Covid has hit the entire global community at once, slowing progress in meeting national development goals and investing in resilient infrastructure. Given the large upfront costs, the long time frames, and the importance of such investment, it is critical to ensure effective governance for planning, funding and implementing projects. This matters at all levels, and especially at the grassroots level. Come what may, the show must go on.