Clueless UPA demure at World Economic Summit?
Promotes a myth: Growth vs inclusiveness?
By Ravi ?
It was for the first time that the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) India summit was organized in Mumbai, the commercial capital, rather than in New Delhi. But it was not the first time that the differences between the aspirations of the nation and the principles of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) clashed.
Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani said, “What has happened in the last 20 years is that the energy of all sections of Indian society has been unleashed to build a new India.” For this, “We need to move a lot faster.” Chanda Kochhar, managing director and chief executive officer of ICICI Bank, the country’s largest private bank, also favored faster decision-making.
Unfortunately, the Congress-led UPA’s response left a lot to be desired. It tried to hide its gross incompetence and monumental corruption behind the smokescreen of the metaphysical concept of ‘inclusive growth.’ Commerce Minister Anand Sharma tried to convince the world that his government has to go slow about economic reforms because the holy cows of inclusiveness and social justice could not be given up.
So, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan put it: “The big challenge before the political system in India is to manage the diversity in our country. It is very difficult to satisfy the fast movers.” As if the heterogeneity of India were unknown before 2004 when the UPA began its ignominious rule! And as if there were a contradiction between growth and inclusiveness!
A 2009 World Bank paper says, “Rapid and sustained poverty reduction requires inclusive growth that allows people to contribute to and benefit from economic growth.” In other words, ‘inclusive growth’ is still growth, not something other than or apart from it. The paper goes on to add, “Rapid pace of growth is unquestionably necessary for substantial poverty reduction, but for this growth to be sustainable in the long run, it should be broad-based across sectors, and inclusive of the large part of the country’s labor force.”
The Planning Commission does not believe inclusive growth to be much dissimilar, though it waxes eloquent about the impact rather than content of inclusive growth. In its approach paper to the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-17), it said, “Inclusive growth should result in lower incidence of poverty, broad?based and significant improvement in health outcomes, universal access for children to school, increased access to higher education and improved standards of education, including skill development. It should also be reflected in better opportunities for both wage employment and livelihoods and in improvement in provision of basic amenities like water, electricity, roads, sanitation and housing.”
Inclusiveness, it adds, would need “multiple interventions.” What the plan panel does not add is that inclusiveness would also need money, a lot of money. And this would not be available without high growth.
Another prerequisite is governance. Howsoever large may be the sum that a government decides to spend on for the removal of poverty, whatever may be quantum of outlays for employment guarantee schemes, whatever may be the number of people the government decides to bring under the food security net—everything would come to naught if the levels of efficiency and probity are low in the quarters that matter. And this is exactly the case with the UPA regime. It’s a government which is mired in all sorts of scandals. Worse, its leaders refuse to admit the rot. They are either in the denial mode—remember Kapil Sibal’s ‘zero-loss’ theory?—or desperately trying to persuade us that they are not particularly bad; others are also corrupt.
Then there is the abomination called the National Advisory Council that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi has burdened the nation with. The body, some of whose members are rabidly anti-business, is busy pushing an agenda that is inimical to the interests of the economy. This bunch of Luddites, Leftists, and sundry other jholawallahs want to take the nation back to the dark ages of Nehruvian socialism. Nothing would delight them more than killing economic growth.
UPA bosses believe that these professional revolutionaries can be used to making inroads into the regions heavily populated by tribals and appeasing the Muslims. What would be more important than getting these groups included in the ruling party’s vote banks? If growth suffers in the process, so be it.
(The author is a freelance journalist)