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May 18, 2024

India Poised to Become the Third Largest Economy by 2027: Insights from Arvind Panagariya

India is on the cusp of a monumental economic transformation, with projections indicating it could become the world’s third-largest economy by 2027. This optimistic forecast, shared by Arvind Panagariya, chairperson of the 16th Finance Commission, underscores the nation’s robust economic growth over the past two decades and its potential to sustain this trajectory.

Sustained Economic Growth Amidst Global Challenges

Addressing the Confederation of Indian Industry Annual Business Summit, Panagariya highlighted India’s impressive average growth rate of approximately 8% in real dollars over the last 20 years. This period of sustained growth is particularly notable given the significant global disruptions during this time, such as the global financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Panagariya, the economic advancements witnessed today are largely a result of the progress made in the past two decades.

Tackling Extreme Poverty and Workforce Distribution

One of the critical milestones India has achieved is the near-eradication of extreme poverty. However, Panagariya pointed out that to transition towards a more prosperous society, especially for the rural population, India must reallocate its workforce from agriculture to industry and services. This shift is essential as it addresses the issue of underemployment, with a significant portion of the workforce engaged in low-productivity agricultural activities.

The Need for Labour Reforms and Capital Redistribution

For India to realize its economic aspirations, Panagariya emphasized the urgency of reforming labour laws and ensuring that markets direct capital towards more labour-intensive industries. Currently, 45% of India’s workforce is employed in agriculture, which only contributes 15% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This disparity highlights the need for structural changes to improve overall productivity and economic output.

Challenges of Land Holdings and Rural Habitations

Panagariya also discussed the challenges posed by the current agricultural landscape, where nearly half of the land holdings are less than half a hectare. Such small-scale holdings result in low average labour productivity in agriculture, further necessitating a shift to more productive sectors.

Moreover, with 76% of the rural population residing in habitations of fewer than 5,000 people, the potential for industrial growth in these areas is limited. For industries to thrive, larger habitations or urbanized settings are essential. Thus, Panagariya suggested two pathways: urbanizing rural areas or facilitating the migration of the agricultural workforce to urban centers.

Pathway to Economic Transformation

To achieve the envisioned economic transformation, India must create and facilitate pathways for the workforce to transition from low-productivity agriculture to higher productivity sectors in industry and services. This strategic shift will not only enhance individual productivity but also contribute significantly to the overall economic growth.

In conclusion, India’s journey towards becoming the third-largest economy by 2027 hinges on its ability to implement critical labour reforms, enhance productivity in agriculture, and foster urbanization. As Panagariya’s insights reveal, the nation’s economic future is bright, provided it can navigate these challenges effectively and continue on its current growth trajectory.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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