Shankar Acharya and Rakesh Mohan (eds.) India’s Economy—Performance and Challenges: Essays in Honour of Montek Singh Ahluwalia. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010. xv+465 pages.

Author: Rashid Amjad
Publication Year : 2010

This volume comprises a compilation of essays written by distinguished Indian economists, and international economists and observers on India, in honour of Montek Singh Ahluwalia, an eminent economist and currently Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, widely recognised as one of the main architects and drivers of the economic reform process. In a very well-written Introduction to this festschrift, capturing the essence of the contributions to the volume and weaving them into an excellent overview, Shankar Acharya and Rakesh Mohan state, “Indeed the story of India’s economic policies over the past three decades could easily be woven around Montek’s career as the pre-eminent government economist through most of this time”. This role is earlier acknowledged in the foreword to the volume by the current Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, the initiator of the overall reform process as Finance Minister from 1991-96, when Montek (as he is popularly known) worked under him in important positions. This recognition also finds strong support amongst the authors, who were close associates of Montek in policy-making, as they recount the role he played in both shaping and driving the economic policy reform agenda. How a small but well-knit team of economists, most of whom had earlier worked in the World Bank or the IMF, could actually achieve this in a country as large and complex as India would baffle any observer. While the book provides no explicit answer, the reform process appears to have initially found favour in response to the economic crisis in 1991. The process then gained momentum as the reforms showed measurable success, and this helped win over the trust and confidence of the political ruling élite.