Putting Consumers First, is a collection of 46 authoritative essays narrating the complex evolution of international trade policies, competition reforms, and governance structures, while also creating a seamless forward link to their more recent and rather contemporary challenges.
The manuscript is an exercise in collaboration comprising 50 eclectic authors, which range from politician-writer-diplomat Shashi Tharoor; former Financial Times Mumbai Bureau Chief and writer of The Billionaire Raj James Crabtree; to political commentator, policy analyst, and PM Manmohan Singh’s media adviser Sanjaya Baru (who also Edited the text).
Organized into four distinct buckets, the book starts with high level commentaries on the rise of global governance frameworks such as the United Nations (UN), the multi-lateral General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was eventually replaced by a more institutional World Trade Organization (WTO).
While Sanjaya Baru gives an insightful account of India’s approach towards global trade, Director General of WTO Roberto Azevêdo and Executive Director of International Trade Centre, Arancha Gonzalez give the add a sanguine perspective on global trade. Rather novel to see Majyd Aziz and P D Rai adding an oft missed regional take, commenting on India’s trade with Pakistan and the need to leverage the country’s North East respectively.
The second, comparatively smaller section is more specific in focus, looking at competition law and reforms with reflections and lessons from Africa by thematic experts like Thula Kaira and George Lipimile while the essay by Secretary General of UNTAD, Mukhisa Kituyi articulates the umbilical link between consumers' welfare and competition policy.
The penultimate segment explores governance and administration themes much closer home, including a past-future view on Indian reforms by former RBI Governor C Rangarajan and an interesting case study highlighting how social media served as a tool for customer engagement and redressal for the Indian Railways by Union Minister Suresh Prabhu.
The final module is also the most broad-ranging, reflecting on many topical themes which intensely resonate within Indian Polity and Economy, be it black money, net neutrality, fintech, corporate bond markets, pharma regulations, and urban planning, to name a few.
The book, structured as a festschrift honouring Pradeep Mehta, an outspoken proponent of Consumer Interest issues and founder Secretary General of CUTS International (a global consumer welfare think-tank), should be of tremendous interest to anyone with an esoteric inclination to understand more on the nuances of global trade, commerce, regulations, and specifically contemporary political economy issues relevant to India and the emerging markets.
‘Putting Consumers First’ is spot on in giving context to complex issues, starting with historical developments leading to their present shape, and asking the big questions any informed citizen would be curious about.
Readers can buy the book from here.
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