Restart: The Last Chance for the Indian Economy

Mihir Sharma Random House India; 362 pages; $39.99

In 2013, when foreign capital suddenly rushed out of emerging markets, India was one of the worst-affected countries. There were plenty of reasons for investors to panic. GDP growth had slumped. The public finances were a mess. And inflation was hovering around 10 percent. A year earlier, a power cut had plunged hundreds of millions of Indians into darkness.

It is a testament to the country's enduring promise that within a year investors were once again scrambling for a stake in its future — this time tempted by the pro-growth promises of Narendra Modi, who won a resounding victory in elections last May. India's population rivals China's in size, but has a far younger complexion. That India is so much poorer in most other regards seems only to add to its allure.

In "Restart," Mihir Sharma, a columnist for the Delhi-based Business Standard, offers a reliable and readable guide to India's stop-start economy. It is admirably clear on what has to change if India is to taste the high living standards enjoyed in other parts of Asia. Sharma applies regular doses of rueful humor as he explains why some of the toughest job-protection laws in the world have ensured that there are few decent jobs in India. The jokes are also a mask for the author's anger at India's poverty, at the nation's failure to match the development of its Asian neighbors and at the self-delusion of its policymakers.

The Economist