The 1991 Project

On July 24, 1991, amid economic crisis and political turmoil, a budget speech of all things changed the course of Indian history.

After decades of socialist planning, India’s finance minister Manmohan Singh announced the country would embrace markets. It was a change that would leave no part of Indians’ lives untouched, and lift a quarter of a billion people out of poverty in the decades that followed.

Yet three-fifths of all Indians have been born since 1991. Having not experienced the crisis, nor the socialist regime that preceded it, they are unfamiliar with the dramatic impact of the 1991 liberalization and the lessons it holds for India’s future. On its 30th anniversary, we seek to revive the ideas and policies that can continue to foster economic growth in India.


“The case for further liberalization is reinforced by the fact that virtually all the better performing developing countries have been engaged in a similar process, and almost all have carried it substantially further than we have.”

Read the M document

How the Crisis Unfolded

The story of how India shed its command economy and embraced markets begins with a series of economic and political crises. Here are the key events leading to Singh’s famous July 24 budget speech.

Explore the 1991 timeline

“My motto is - trade, not aid.”

Read Prime Minister Rao’s
July 9 speech transcript

“Neither the Government nor the economy can live beyond its means year after year.”

Read finance minister Singh’s July 24 budget speech transcript

Learn more about the people who made it happen.

Read Their Bios

The 1991 Project is an effort to revive the discourse on growth-centered economic reforms in India by focusing on the economic ideas that drove them. In the coming months, we will publish essays, data visualizations, oral histories, podcasts, and policy papers demystifying the Indian economy and the 1991 reforms.

Listen to Ideas of India Podcast