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India Turns to Economic Overhaul as Growth Prospects Slide Amid Coronavirus

India Turns to Economic Overhaul as Growth Prospects Slide Amid Coronavirus

NEW DELHI—With India facing an economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is looking to deregulation as the cure.

The changes pushed through in recent weeks by his Bharatiya Janata Party, affecting everything from factory floors to farming, have so far led to more confusion than acclaim, but economists say the economic overhaul could ultimately improve India’s troubled growth prospects.

“The reforms are in the right direction. They are bold steps,” said Ashok Gulati, an Indian agricultural economist and professor at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.

India’s economic growth was slowing alarmingly even before the pandemic abruptly threw it into reverse, starting in March. In the months that followed, the economy contracted by almost one-quarter, the sharpest blow suffered by any of the world’s largest economies during the coronavirus-induced downturns.

The poor have been particularly hard hit, as workers who had migrated to cities to support families in rural areas returned home when those jobs disappeared. With many returning to farming, they now depend more than ever on India’s heavily regulated agricultural economy.

Mr. Modi, whose government’s perilous financial state has left few options for addressing the crisis, pushed through a grab bag of dramatic regulatory changes last month with little warning and no debate in Parliament. In a voice vote—obscured by technical glitches with the public broadcast of the proceeding that made it difficult to determine which parliamentarians actually supported the measures—the BJP passed a flurry of politically difficult changes.

In a single swoop, it dismantled a longstanding regulatory system that forced farmers to sell most of their crops through government-approved wholesale markets dominated by traders and middlemen instead of directly to consumers or food processors.

Then the BJP passed a series of new labor measures that increased the number

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Analysis: Taking a page from authoritarians, Trump turns power of the state against political rivals

Analysis: Taking a page from authoritarians, Trump turns power of the state against political rivals

President Donald Trump’s order to his secretary of state to declassify thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails, along with his insistence that his attorney general issue indictments against Barack Obama and Joe Biden, takes his presidency into new territory — until now, occupied by leaders with names like Putin, Xi and Erdogan.

Trump has long demanded — quite publicly, often on Twitter — that his most senior Cabinet members use the power of their office to pursue political enemies. But his appeals last week, as he trailed badly in the polls and was desperate to turn the national conversation away from the coronavirus, were so blatant that one had to look to authoritarian nations to make comparisons.

He took a step even Richard Nixon avoided in his most desperate days: openly ordering direct immediate government action against specific opponents, timed to serve his reelection campaign.

“There is essentially no precedent,” said Jack Goldsmith, who led the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush and has written extensively on presidential powers. “We have a norm that developed after Watergate that presidents don’t talk about ongoing investigations, much less interfere with them.”

“It is crazy and it is unprecedented,” said Goldsmith, now a professor at Harvard Law School, “but it’s no different from what he has been saying since the beginning of his presidency. The only thing new is that he has moved from talking about it to seeming to order it.”

Trump’s vision of the presidency has always leaned to exercising the absolute powers of the chief executive, a writ-large version of the family business he presided over. “I have an Article II,” he told young adults last year at a Turning Point USA summit, referring to the section of the Constitution that deals with the president’s powers,

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