India, a giant economic mediocrity, is cursed by having too many economists. Its outgoing prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has a doctorate from Oxford, ran the central bank in the 1980s and led the liberalisation programme that India put in place in 1991 after a currency crisis. Yet as prime minister Mr Singh had little grip or public support, serving at the pleasure of Sonia Gandhi, the populist leader of the Congress party. By the end of his ten-year term he admitted he had failed. In August, as the rupee tumbled, he addressed a gathering of India’s policymaking elite at his house in Delhi. The economy faced “very difficult circumstances”, he whispered.
Mr Singh’s successor could not be more different. Narendra Modi’s economic views have been formed while running the business-friendly state of Gujarat for the past 12 years. Asked some time ago about his economic influences, he described his homespun framework, jotting diagrams on a pad as he spoke. He has studied Singapore and China, but thinks that “India is a democracy and has different requirements”. Striking a balance between farming, small firms and global companies is required, with limited but muscular administration and populist appeal: “Men, machines and money must work together.”
Having run Gujarat well, Mr Modi now faces the far harder task of running India. He has big advantages””administrative competence, control over his party and a majority in Parliament””that should ease decision-making. Unlike Mr Singh, he has also campaigned and won on a platform of aspiration and economic reform. India needs “less government and more governance”, he declared on the campaign trail.