The Lost Decade (2008-2018): How India's Growth Story Devolved into Growth without a Story.

AuthorAgrawal, Binit

Mehra, Puja. The Lost Decade (2008-2018): How India's Growth Story Devolved into Growth without a Story. New Delhi: Penguin Random House India, 2019.

In 2008, when the world was reeling under an unprecedented financial crisis, the acclaimed magazine, the Economist, predicted, "India's growing power will reshape the world as we know it. India's real GDP has surged by an annual average of nearly 9 percent in the past five years" ("India's future," Economist, Sept. 29, 2008). More than a decade later, what remains is nothing close to the predictions made in that article. Today, the pre-COVID-19 GDP growth rate of India is an unimpressive 4.2 percent, with negative growth rate a near certainty post--COVID-19. This economic slowdown has been worsened by a bad debt problem, a rural economy crisis, a consumption slowdown, a rise in unemployment, and a surge in inequality. Puja Mehra, an accredited economic journalist, relies on economic evidence, political events, personal anecdotes, and her journalistic insight to tell us how this came to be. Trying to untangle the events of the decade of 2008-2018, she has structured the book into four periods: 2008-2009, when India adroitly recovered from the global economic shock; 2009-2012, when the recovery made in 2008 was destroyed; 2012-2015, when the country made another attempt at recovery; and 2016-2018, when the economy was again sent on a downward spiral.

The story starts in 2008, when the booming economic growth was halted because of the global economic crisis. The economist prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, wasted no time in announcing multiple financial packages, setting India up for a V-shaped recovery after the 2008 crisis. These packages created the necessary liquidity in the market ensuring that there is no economic slowdown. This helped secure a victory for Singh's party in the 2009 national elections. Given Singh's development record, optimism for further reforms in education, banking, agriculture, judiciary, and sustainability was abound. However, as the book displays, this was not to happen. Singh suffered from a heart attack soon after and when he returned, everything had changed. He returned weaker, and the finance ministry had already been granted to Pranab Mukherjee. Mukherjee happened to be an old-school politician, with his ideologies rooted in the socialist mindset of the 1970s. The author recounts how Mukherjee found himself clueless in a globalized setup and continued to...

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