According to an IMF forecast, the global economy is likely to shrink by 3% in 2020 (this is likely to be the worst crisis, since the great depression). If one were to look at the case of India, the IMF has predicted a GDP growth rate of around 2% (1.9%) ,though forecasts by other agencies have estimated a much lower growth rate.
If one were to look at the case of Panjab, the economy of the state was not in the pink of health, even before the outbreak of COVID19 (the debt-gross state domestic product ratio was estimated at a little less than 40%). The pandemic is likely to exacerbate the state’s economic problems.
The Chief Minister of Panjab, Captain Amarinder Singh has already stated in no uncertain terms, that the coronavirus is likely to result in a massive economic upheaval for the state. The state is likely to set up a panel, which will provide recommendations for dealing with the economic problems arising out of the coronavirus crisis and the lockdown. Navigating the economy of the state at this stage requires not just bureaucratic experience, but the ability to think out of the box.
Post the corona virus, a number of analysts have argued, that manufacturing will shift from China to other countries including Vietnam, Bangladesh and India. Japan has already allocated a stimulus of 2.2 Billion USD, for helping Japanese manufacturing companies to shift their base from China back to Japan, as well as other countries. Some other Indian states, while dealing with the pandemic, are already working out strategies for attracting investments from companies, which are keen to shift from China.
There are numerous Panjabis with invaluable corporate experience, in India and outside, who can help the state of Panjab in attracting such investment. The panel being set up by the state government must include such individuals apart from representatives from the business community.
While Panjab in recent years, has been reaching out to a number of countries, including Japan, it needs to try and ensure, that this outreach converts into tangible results (there is an opportunity given the fact that the East Asian country is encouraging it’s companies to move out of China)
For rebuilding Panjab, the government also needs to work closely with religious organisations, NGO’s, universities, and most importantly the Panjabi Diaspora. It is true, that due to the economic slowdown in western countries, the economic contribution of NRI’s to the state, especially remittances, will witness a dip (according to a World Bank Report, remittances received by India are likely to fall by over 20%).
Yet, there are a number of entrepreneurs, intellectuals and even policy makers in the Diaspora, who can provide valuable suggestions for rebuilding Panjab in a post corona world. Apart from providing inputs, these individuals can act as ambassadors of the state. The Panjab government would also be well advised to reach out proactively to Panjabi Members of Parliament, in UK and Canada, and other Panjabi policy makers in different countries.
Currently, the outreach to the diaspora, is restricted to annual events, and a few individuals, and is driven by politics and personal preferences rather than the interests of the state.
While dealing with the corona-crisis, the Chief Minister needs to be lauded for attempting to build consensus, across party lines, and also working with a cross section of stakeholders.
It would be pertinent to point out, that in the last three years, the signaling from both the central and state government to the Sikh Diaspora has not been very positive. Even in the midst of the pandemic, there has been a concerted campaign by sections of the media, in Panjab and outside, to pin the blame for the spread of the deadly pandemic in the state on overseas Panjabis who had travelled to the state.
Panjab's task is cut out, and recovering from the economic impact of the coronavirus is likely to take a while. Panjabis are likely to face a number of hardships along the way, but innovative policies, strong hands on leadership and effective governance can revive the economy sooner than most commentators are predicting.
Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi based Policy Analyst associated with The OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat
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