It’s the Politics Stupid!

Guest Article by Pravina Rudra, Project Intern – IPS

Bill Clinton famously ran his election campaign for US President on the slogan “It’s the economy, stupid”. But, as Philippa Dee’s latest book suggests, even if the economy is uppermost on voters’ minds, a better slogan for electioneers in South Asia would be “It’s the politics, stupid”.

9780415523066_p0_v1_s260x420“Economic Reform Processes in South Asia: Towards Policy Efficiency” is a ground-breaking new compendium of research and reports, drawn from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It discusses the successes of different reforms, and, most importantly, recognises that South Asia requires a more specialist approach than regions such as East Asia – here it is politicians, and politics itself which provide the spark to ignite economic reform. Uniquely, the authors’ recognition of governmental inadequacies is well-seasoned with practical advice: they find economic policies that would work within the constraints of South Asian politics (and, to boot, which have been tried and tested).

Questions explored include why India is widely considered to have “won” on economic policy, and Pakistan to have failed, as well as how an increase in the pair’s bilateral trade will be a virtuous cycle – where trade is at stake, the political tensions lower and thus security in the region attracts investment and yet more trade. Of particular note is the penultimate chapter by IPS Deputy Director, Dr. Dushni Weerakoon, where an incremental approach to reform is advocated, and oft- overlooked facts are highlighted. For example, increasing employment often helps governments be re-elected, but in the long-term compensation and firing restrictions backfire, ironically, on the very workers they were supposed to protect.

More information on the book can be obtained from

(Pravina Rudra is an undergraduate student at Pembroke College of the University of Oxford studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She recently completed a summer internship at the IPS.)