LAST November, two days after India’s ruling party suffered a drubbing at local polls in the state of Bihar, the government unexpectedly opened a dozen new industries to foreign direct investment (FDI). A gushing official called it “the biggest path-breaking and the most radical changes in the FDI regime ever undertaken”.

On June 20th, two days after Raghuram Rajan, the respected governor of India’s central bank, abruptly announced that he would soon step down, the government covered its embarrassment with another impromptu salute to FDI. The slim package of enticements, amounting to a slight lowering of barriers in some of the same industries, has made India “the most open economy in the world for FDI,” said the office of Narendra Modi, the prime minister.

Hyperbole is not unexpected from a government keen to burnish its liberalising credentials. But it has not lived up to its cheery slogans (“Startup India”, “We Unobstacle”, “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”). Two years after clinching a sweeping electoral mandate, and with the opposition in disarray, Mr Modi’s reform agenda should be in full swing. Instead,...Continue reading