INDIA TODAY - The most widely read newsweekly in South Asia.c
CURRENT ISSUE JANUARY 30, 2006
NATION: Mood of the Nation Poll ECONOMY
High Sentiments, Higher Spending
Indian's heartland is bullish on the economy and wants bold reforms. Time for UPA and the Left to recheck the sentiments of aam aadmi
There is, at last, an answer to the question which has been dogging governments at the Centre and in the states since the 1990s. Do economic reforms help or hurt poll prospects? Experts have written reams on why reforms are good for people, but peoplesf verdict on reforms has never been clear and consistent. That is, if political partiesf interpretation of the election results is to be believed. The UPA Government has abandoned privatisation.the most significant economic reform of the NDA government.because it believes people voted against privatisation in the 2004 elections. Left parties donft get tired of saying that reforms of the past years can find support only in urban India.
The urban-rural breakup of the Mood of the Nation Poll presents some surprises for those who believe in the UPA-Left view on reforms. People in rural India are not only more bullish on the economy than those living in cities, they also want faster reforms-including more privatisation. More than a fifth of the rural Indians (23 per cent) feel their quality of life improved in 2005. For urban India this figure is only 16 per cent. A good 32 per cent people living in cities feel their quality of life worsened last year, but only 18 per cent of people in villages said so. More than a third of rural India expects the stock market boom to continue in 2006-versus only 19 per cent in urban areas. If that optimism is because people in villages may not know enough about markets, here come more surprises. Over 25 per cent rural Indians support disinvestment in profit-making public sector units (only 15 per cent in urban areas) and 35 per cent believe that the Left parties are responsible for the slowdown in reforms (against 28 per cent in cities). India seems to be shining brighter in villages. A regional deconstruction of the poll also shows some strong variation in opinion. People in the east are least hopeful of a stock market boom, are most opposed to disinvestment and- unsurprisingly-blame the Left least for the slowdown in reforms. For years unemployment has been the most worrisome economic issue. In this poll, inflation took over as the top concern. A reason for this fundamental shift is the current job boom that has made unemployment less of an issue, at least for the urban middle class. There is no spike in inflation to justify it being the number one economic concern. But then none of the inflation indices the government compiles capture the cost of services Indians are spending rising proportion of incomes on-travel and transport, domestic help and financial services.
-By Rohit Saran
23% people in villages feel their quality of life improved compared to 16% in cities.
25% OF RURAL INDIANS SUPPORT DISINVESTMENT IN PROFITABLE PSUS AGAINST ONLY 15% IN URBAN INDIA.
Do you think the stock market boom will last through 2006? Yes 25 No 11 All figures in per cent. Rest: Don't know/Can't say
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS ON THE ECONOMIC FRONT? 51 WILL REMAIN THE SAME Will get worse 11 (12.1) Will be better 28 (24) Figures in brackets indicate percentage in August 2005 All figures in per cent. Rest: Don't know/Can't say
DID YOU SPEND MORE MONEY IN 2005 THAN IN 2004? MORE 62 Less 5 Same 17 All figures in per cent. Rest: Don't know/Can't say
Are the Left parties slowing down the reforms process in the country? Yes 24 No 21 All figures in per cent. Rest: Don't know/Can't say
Who gains most from economic reforms? RICH 54 Poor 15 (11) Middle class 10 (10) All 3 of the above 9 (14) None of them 3 (5) All figures in per cent. Rest: Don't know/Can't say
Should the Centre sell its stake in profit-making PSUs? No 36 Yes 19