In his maiden budget speech as India’s finance minister, H. M. Patel, representing the Janata Party government, signaled a clear departure from the country’s socialist economic trajectory toward a path of liberalism and economic growth.
The emphasis of Patel’s speech was twofold: bread and liberty. “Bread” was a metaphor for the government’s commitment to addressing the immediate needs of the Indian people, particularly the need to escape poverty and gain employment. “Liberty” referred to the government’s intention to break free from the restrictive economic policies of the past and foster a climate of free enterprise and competition.
He expressed the need for “a fresh examination of our planning priorities and techniques,” indicating a willingness to reassess the tenets that had underlain India’s centrally planned economy since independence. Furthermore, he outlined plans to liberalize the country’s import policies. These measures aimed at creating a more competitive landscape among Indian industries, thereby improving productivity and fostering innovation.
Patel’s budget speech marked a transformative moment in India’s economic history, ushering in an era of gradual economic liberalization. His strategic vision laid the foundation for the more comprehensive economic reforms that would follow in the coming decades.