NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Narendra Modi's unhealthy obsession with the World Bank's Doing Business ranking hijacked India's reform agenda over the course of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government's four-year tenure, according to hundreds of pages of meeting minutes, interviews with key players and official correspondence reviewed by HuffPost India.
The documents reveal how the Modi government first sought to lobby the World Bank into changing its methodology to reflect a better rank for India. When that didn't achieve any significant success, the government prioritised minor institutional and procedural tweaks to game the ranking system, rather than embark on a bold agenda of economic reform as promised.
This monomaniacal focus on putting India among the top 50 countries in the ranking, economists said, gave the World Bank disproportionate influence in India's economic reform process. It has also revived a persistent concern that the Modi government preferred to focus its energies on optics instead of actual governance and reform.
This monomaniacal focus on putting India among the top 50 countries in the ranking, economists said, gave the World Bank disproportionate influence in India's economic reform process
"If you keep on finding the easiest things to change, then you are effectively letting the World Bank's ratings decide what kind of changes you want, rather than deciding what is your own sense of priorities," said Laveesh Bhandari, an economist and director of the Indicus Foundation, who had written a column for The Indian Express outlining these concerns.
Reports published immediately after India's dramatic rise up the rankings— from 142 to 77 over four years— have surmised as much. But this is the first comprehensive account that relies on previously unreported documents—accessed through the Right To Information—to provide a blow-by-blow account of...