Post Mortem

Many challenges lie ahead

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 12/29/2020 12:20:14 PM IST

 By and large, 2021 is expected to be a mixed bag with some good and some bad news, not only for India but also for the world. The famous French astrologer, physician and prophet Nostradamus had predicted that 2021 would be catastrophic, as the pandemic would rage on, though many optimists expect it to be better than 2020. When the contagion hit the world, it was most unexpected and many countries, even in the developed world, were unprepared to face the pandemic. One year down the line, governments around the world and the people, too, are much better prepared to face the continued onslaught of the Covid-19 outbreak. Fortunately, some countries, including India, have come up with vaccines to combat the virus.

Nostradamus had predicted that the world economy would collapse and “the rich would die many times.” Importantly, the work from home culture will continue in the new year too. It will be a year of challenges, particularly for governments. The biggest challenge for the Narendra Modi Government would be dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak. It will not be easy to ensure that the 1.3 billion people of the country get the vaccine in time. Particularly as India lacks the cold chain infrastructure to keep the vaccine effective and safe for users. This gap has to be bridged urgently. Even though the Covid warriors have done an excellent job till now despite many constraints, they will face many more challenges in the times to come. The second challenge is to find more money to deal with the Coronavirus in the 2021 Budget as there is an urgent need to improve healthcare facilities, particularly in rural areas. The third challenge is the sliding economy. Many economists predict that 2021 will be a bad year not only for India but also for the entire world. The Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that fiscal conditions are likely to be weak in India in 2021 owing to the strains faced by the banking sector. This will lead the economy to register a double-dip recession. The Reserve Bank of India had also projected that the Gross Domestic Product would contract by 9.5 per cent in the current financial year amid disruptions caused by the pandemic and it may turn positive in the last quarter (January to March).

Even though credit rating agency Moody’s had said that “India’s credit profile is increasingly constrained by low growth, a high debt burden and a weak financial system”, it expects India’s economic growth to rebound to 10.6 per cent in the fiscal year 2021-22 on a strong base effect.

The fourth challenge is to find jobs for the millions who lost their livelihoods due to the extended lockdown. Added to that is the migrant labour issue as many of those who walked back home after the lockdown are yet to come back to the cities. The fifth challenge is to tackle the growing farmers’ unrest. Thousands of farmers from about 11 States have marched to Delhi and are protesting since November 26. Modi is facing his biggest challenge from the farmers’ lobby that wants the Centre to repeal the three farm laws passed by Parliament. Politically, the BJP-led NDA will be in a much stronger position in Parliament. It will provide the BJP the leeway to further its political agenda with greater manoeuvrability and attempt more reforms. However, while such reforms will support medium-to-long-term growth, in the short term weak economic conditions and tensions might continue.

A major political challenge will be the Assembly polls scheduled in five States amid the pandemic. The poll-bound States include Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry. Essentially it is the fight between the BJP and the regional satraps. The stakes are high for both, the regional satraps and the BJP which wants to capture West Bengal and expand in the South by improving its position in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Naturally, there will be political regroupings. The polls will decide the fate of the new entrant superstar Rajinikanth in Tamil Nadu. It will decide the fate of the Congress too, whether it will improve or slide down even further in political relevance in the country.

As for foreign policy, Nostradamus predicted that in 2021 there would be a possibility of creating a union between India, China, Britain and Russia. As it is, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will visit India as the Republic Day chief guest in January. But most visits of foreign dignitaries have been stopped as the new norm is virtual meetings. Despite that, the new year might see fresh strategic tie-ups and trade challenges emerging. New Delhi will continue its diplomatic engagements with more vigour. Engagement with big and small powers will continue in 2021 despite Covid. Indo-US relations will continue to be warm as the new Joe Biden Administration is expected to be friendly to India. The US President-elect might ease visa regulations as he had promised that before the presidential elections. Biden might also address trade-related issues. The diplomatic strength at the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations is being enhanced as India readies to sit in the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member this year. India will launch year-long celebrations from August 2021 to commemorate 75 years of Independence with a slew of programmes to showcase development, governance, technology, reform, progress and policy over the years. By and large, 2021 is expected to be a mixed bag with some good and some bad news, not only for India but also for the world.                      

Kalyani Shankar

(The writer is a senior journalist. The views expressed are personal.)

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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