1 July 2021 marks 30 years of the liberalisation reforms in India. On the same day in 1991, India’s then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh devalued the Indian rupee by almost 20% in 2 phases and within a span of 3 days. This, combined with the budget speech he delivered on 24 July 1991, is momentous as it ushers in a new era of economic policymaking. To mark this occasion, we plan to retell the story of liberalisation and the reforms that were brought in to move India towards a market based economy. Through this narrative, we aim to traverse the evolution of economic thought in the country and the policies that followed thereafter. The liberalisation of the economy was a watershed moment in India’s history catapulting it on a path of growth and prosperity. Walking through the political economy aspects of these reforms allows oneself to appreciate the complexity in the policymaking process and the boldness of the 1991 reforms themselves. This is more so for people born after 1991 who have not witnessed the plight of India before the reforms of 1991.
1. To unpack the complex political economy in 1991, and highlight the people, ideas and the policy reforms which survived this crisis. This is about recounting facts and articulating them coherently in a story-like form.
2. To take a bird’s eye view of the crisis management and place it in a larger macro-historical context of India’s economic trajectory, thereby looking at the past through a telescope, and examining the future through a microscope.
Prakhar Misra is a Research Associate with the Mercatus Centre at George Mason University. His research focusses on state capacity and Indian political economy. He is also an Advisory Board Member of Commonwealth Drone Partnership, a UK based thinktank researching uses of drones to build capacity for health, environment and emergency services.
Previously, he was Senior Associate at IDFC Institute and led the Data Governance Network, for which IDFC Institute is the Secretariat. Prior to this, Prakhar has worked on setting up a microfinance institution for the Roma in Eastern Europe. He was also a Fellow with Teach For India and with the Swaniti Initiative.
Prakhar completed a postgraduate degree in Economics and Finance from the Meghnad Desai Academy of Economics where he was a Chanakya Scholar. His thesis was titled ‘India and the Impossible Trinity’ analysing how the RBI navigated through the Mundell-Fleming Trilemma under Dr. Niranjan Rajadhyaksha. He was a Chevening Scholar reading for a Masters in Public Policy at the University of Oxford. He was also a Researcher at the Blavatnik School of Government analysing the trends in the evolution of Indian nationalism under Dr. Maya Tudor.
He also holds a Bachelors in Engineering from Ramaiah Institute of Technology where he graduated as the 'Best Outgoing Student' of his class.
He is an avid writer with more than three dozen publications in English and Hindi in Indian Express, Hindustan Times, The Times of India, Financial Express, The Hindu, Huffington Post, and others. He has also written a few book chapters in edited volumes and has a few journal publications to his name.
The Political Economy context of 1991
The implementation of reforms and impact
What the critics say of 1991
Recap + Deductive principles to inform public policy
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