No MoUshttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/no-mous/

No MoUs

Gujarat’s fudged its numbers. Now why would they do that?

If there is one thing everybody apparently agrees on,it is that Narendra Modi has worked wonders for Gujarat’s economy. Whatever his other faults,he has made Gujarat a good place for business — just look at the amount of investment flowing into the state! Numbers don’t lie,after all. Sadly,numbers may not,but sometimes we’re looking at the wrong ones. As this newspaper made public on Thursday,the state government’s own internal numbers don’t tell quite as sanguine a story as what they would have us believe in public. Rather than 61 per cent of the promises at “Vibrant Gujarat” investment melas being brought to fruition,barely 20 per cent are.

This story,of signed memoranda not becoming reality,has been broadly true of summits since 2003. Why then has,every year,the Gujarat government publicised an identical set of claims,unquestioned by reasonable observers — punctuated only by the state Congress’s increasingly shrill and unbelievable claims in the opposite direction? This is made more puzzling when set in the context of Gujarat’s genuinely exceptional performance in other sectors,and its willingness to embrace reform-generated efficiency. Why push dubious external investment numbers over other indicators of governance-related effectiveness? After all,as much academic work has shown — some,such as that of the IIM-Ahmedabad economist Sebastian Morris,from within the state itself — Gujarat,while always an excellent destination for investors,may actually underperform as an investment destination as compared to its cohort of “peer states”.

The reason why we’re told one story rather than another is,of course,political. For one,it serves as a counterbalance to concerns raised about Gujarat’s governance following the riots of 2002. After all,the state government wants us to know,if all this investment money thinks that things are OK,shouldn’t you,too? Another big reason: if we aren’t to believe that investment is drawn in at these giant melas by trust in the chief minister’s personality,we’d be forced to look elsewhere for a reason.