Mumbai, March 15
With five years of heat and dust of temple and politics behind, the Uttar Pradesh government now finally plans to pay attention on the state of its economy.
Accordingly, the UP government has decided to hire a consultant to advise on how to boost the state's economy to $1 trillion by 2027 — or during the second term of Chief Minister-designate Yogi Adityanath.
The UP Department of Planning on Tuesday released ads in prominent Mumbai media oulets to this effect, soliciting request for proposal (RFP) by April 14.
"The Department of Planning wishes to engage Consultant to boost up the size of the Economy of Uttar Pradesh to One Trillion Dollar in five years (2022-2027)," read the ad.
The step evoked some curiosity and chortles among economic experts and India Inc., though it could not be immediately confirmed if similar releases were issued in UP media too.
The measure came just four days after the Maha Vikas Aghadi government's Deputy Chief Minister and state Finance Minister Ajit Pawar announced in the Legislature that Maharashtra is well-poised to become the first state in the country to achieve $1 trillion economy in the next three years, spelling cheers.
The timing of the UP government's expression of interest – and desire – to 'bulldoze' its economy has raised questions like "why now" among experts and corporates here.
"There are other concerns… How much investment does the UP government expect for this and whether it will be able to arrange and manage the fund inflows," said Ratnakar Mahajan, a well-known economic expert and former Executive Chairman of Maharashtra State Planning Board.
Bhalchandra Mungekar, a former member of the Planning Commission and ex-UGC Chairman, feels the UP government is attempting to "blindly imitate" Maharashtra as its "well nigh impossible for any expert or consultant to advise on turning them into a $1 trillion economy within a specified time-frame" like this.
"For this, factors like the basic strengths of the UP economy, the sectoral position of agriculture, industry, services, infrastructure, domestic and foreign investments, ease of doing business, plus a certain gestation period are the chief parameters which any prospective investors would consider," Mungekar pointed out.
Mahajan said that traditionally, Maharashtra has been an advanced state, both agriculturally and industrially, since 1960, and later it evolved its visionary ‘agro-industrial policy' with equal emphasis on both these engines of development.
"UP is largely dependent on agriculture… Kanpur is an economic hub, but the state lags in industrialisation, urbanisation, skilled talent etc. It seems they are ‘clueless' as to how to go about it… So they need outside experts to advise them," Mahajan said.
Mungekar said India is currently a $3 trillion economy, so if Maharashtra and UP end up contributing two-thirds to it, the rest of India would contribute only $1 trillion.
"This could result in a regional economic imbalance… But I wish the UP government the very best in its endeavour, and hope that all Indian states also progress in a similar fashion," Mungekar said.
US-returned NRI in Mumbai, Ketan R. Kakkad, feels the UP government is showing yet another ‘lollipop' to the people, which may not materialise in the near future.
"As in the US or any other advanced country, economics and politics must always remain independent. After the polls, the government must shift into the ‘economic mode' rather than continuing in the ‘election mode', as we have witnessed since 2014. Then only a clear message will go and the economy can flourish," Kakkad explained.
"For good economic growth, a multi-pronged approach is essential — enhancing the manufacturing sector, an annual growth in GDP and distributing it among various sections of the society. While UP's GDP stands at around 6.4 per cent, Maharashtra's GDP has crossed 12.1 per cent this year," said Mahajan.
Endorsing the view, Kakkad urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and state Chief Ministers to appoint or elect economists and influential NRIs to guide on the economy instead of 'sadhus' (saints) whose vision is limited to religion or temple politics.
Despite repeated attempts, the UP Planning Department Special Secretary could not be reached for comments on his landline numbers.