Tourism is an exchange earning industry with a high potential for prividing “stimulus” for overall multi-pronged development. As a core industry, tourism evinces propensity to engender pronounced forward linkages; and combined with e-Governance and Quality of Growth delivery mechanisms, Tourism triggers fast breeder multiplier effects setting the development process on an even keel. While Internet can drive the delivery of governance solutions online, offering substantial benefits to communities and the agencies providing them, the key to success for India getting catapulted into the comity of world class nations lies in Tourism-centric Special Economic Zones (T-SEZs) as underlined in this blog. Primed by infrastructure and complementary support services, T-SEZs can help secure “Quality of Growth (QOG) Outcomes”. The effort involved, however, requires in-depth understanding of public policy making, and it has been felt that a Web-based Research Portal, with a suitable business model, can deliver in this context. Such a Portal should identify different sets of contextualities and conditions, brain-torm to diagnose/ prognose issues, undertake research to establish public policy prescriptions/ interventions together with delivery mechanisms, and communicating the same to steer development efforts toward tangibleQOG Outcomes.
Qogpaths: Structuring different combinations of development contexts and conditions with appropriate Policy Interventions (PIs) woven into them as “QOG Missions”, and cast them into an assortment of prognostic and diagnostic e-Governance tools is quite an ambitious and challenging venture for a small web-based research boutique. In my view, each combination of Contextuality vs QOG Mission represents a Matrixed Micro-Macro Development Mission that can be christened as “QOGPATH” or pathway for QOG Outcomes. To be perfected over a period of time, the QOGPATHs can unravel an assortment of diagnostic and prognostic e-Governance Tools, and Add Ons, packaged as a slew of marketable products within the ambit of a e-Gov Consultancy canvas. Predicating on the success of such a e-Gov Tech consultancy venture is cost and revenue management via an appropriate business model. The effort entails studious web-based collaborative research as a basic “organizational mission”, at times as the need arises, in the mold of MIMAP exercises envisaged by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada. QOGPATHs are like doctor’s prescriptions in both prognostic and diagnostic development contextualities.
Definition: There are various definitions to the evolving body of knowledge called “e-government”, or more appropriately, e-governance; the one that could be most contemporary seems to be “integration of business processes arising out of vision, leadership and policy with the economy of a nation/ group of nation states by a pervasive, strategic use of technology for better management of citizen, customer and community needs and interactions”.
Electronic governance can fundamentally change the connection between peoples and their governments. It can make Governments to live up to people’s mandate, and greatly improve transactions between them. It can also help people take an active part in the democratic process (i.e., reduce alienation), and confer on them the power to hold Governments more accountable, responsible and transparent.
Different forms or structures of e-governance can be visualized depending on the socio-political order chosen/ or available to citizens of nation states, or, for that matter, even of small village communities. The scope of e-governance and the issues and boundary conditions in what ought to be the best practices that ensure “quality of life” suggest that tourism-centric SEZs can make a difference not just only to generate fast multiplier effects spurring all round economic growth (macro level), but can also ensure quality of life (micro level) for the citizens.
Asset Accumulation, Growth and Welfare: According to Vinod Thomas, former Vice President, World Bank and Head of the World Bank Institute, inequalities in investment in education and healthcare lead to lack of opportunities to improve poor people’s lives. For instance, educational differences in India are one reason why the impact of growth on poverty is five times greater in the Indian state of Kerala than in Bihar, international differences in the spread and distribution of education are far more enormous. To quote World Bank research again, “poverty reduction associated with growth varies widely”; the “quality of the growth process, not just its pace, affects development outcomes”.
The pace of growth has been more sustainable in developed and industrially advanced countries that pay attention to qualitative aspects of growth. There is a two-way relationship between economic growth and improvements in social welfare. In contrast to physical capital formation advocated traditionally, development researchers these days are underlining that other forms of capital formation viz., human capital and natural capital (investment in eco-friendly environment, including balanced maintenance of bio-diversity, and its sustainability), can spur growth and reduce poverty. Surveys have shown that gross under investments in human, institutional and natural capital will only depress “total factor productivity” so vital for dynamic, quality of growth outcomes. A typical case in point is India’s social sector under investments inherited as a legacy of a “Rao Bahadur, Rai Bahadur” era that showed no concern for the common man during the first five and half decades of the Indian National Congress–the Frand Old Party (GOP)’s governance. India’s current literacy rates and its position low down at the bottom of the world tables of Healthcare Indices themselves speak volumes of how dismally lackadaisical and negligent the Government of India (GOI) policies and efforts have been over the past six decades!
Major Lacuna: Avoidance of special incentives for physical capital (subsidizing agriculture, energy etc), supplemented by pricing of natural and structured resources (levies, special assessments, user charges/ fees etc) can generate significant funds for mitigating social under investment. India has an excellent savings to GDP rate in the range of 25 to 30% past six decades since independence, which indeed is a development planners’ dream ratio. Yet, all round development is very tardy and woefully deficient, as it appears the nation’s savings are not properly channeled to finance development. A small country like Chile (Latin America) was internationally acclaimed in mid nineties as a success story for tapping its corpus of Pension Funds for financing infrastructure development. It has taken 15-long years for India to emulate Chile. Mr. P. Chidambaram, India’s ex-Finance Minister, announced in 2004-05 Budget that he was planning to do the same in the 2005-06 budget. We are now into 2009, we are just taking “baby steps” into Pension Funds as recently as last year.
The Big Picture: Poverty X-Rayed
According to a World Bank publication “The Mystery of Capital” by Hernando de Soto, a South American economist, such savings by the poor, locked as they are, as “dead capital”, cannot be productively harnessed because of “rigidities of legal and property systems” in the developing world. Soto underlines this point to makes a strong plea that unlike in the west, –where every building, equipment and piece of land is officially recorded–, the bulk of the savings of the poor in the less developed and ex-communist world are tied up in these “defective” assets.
Property rights, lack of legal systems: Soto’s extensive research in Philippines, Egypt, Peru and Haiti had revealed that about 85% of “urban parcels”, and between 40-55% of “rural records” in the Third World are held outside the legal framework, and in ways that could not be used to create capital, and churn it to facilitate rapid upward mobility of the poor. Accordingly, the value of real estate so held was estimated to be a staggering US$ 9.3 trillion in 1990, — which is twice the USA’s money supply in circulation, twenty times the total foreign direct investment into all the Third World countries in the ten years after 1989, and forty six times as much as all the World Bank loans over a three decade period (1960s to 90s).
In order to avoid taxes, it appears advantageous for the poor to hold on to their illegal assets rather than convert them to legal assets. Thus a vast majority of the Third World poor are caught up in a vicious circle of their own making, precluding themselves out of their own volition to assert their legitimate rights of opportunity to work. This has something to do with the nexus between the “extra-legal world” and the “establishment”. If a government supports it unapologetically and brazenly openly at that, thinking after all people do not know, such Governments can perhaps inexorably be heading to be named as “failed” states.
Whether there will be “political will” to tackle this issue internationally, and in particular, to re-fashion legal systems worldwide to facilitate access for the poor to “legally enforceable property rights” or not is a mute point. If women were empowered to claim their legitimate right for property, half of humanity will have won the battle. Perhaps a Praxis of Pole and Polarity exists here. Gender mainstreaming in Governance at the bottom of the pyramid, improving Governance and reducing corruption are money savers. Greater transparency and broader participation in decision making aided by Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) facilitate such smart value-enhanced governance outcomes via electronic legislative and policy making debates. Capable of improving the “visibility of participative processes” in sync with “the front-end public services”, such aspects of transparency and inclusiveness that ensure Quality of Governance, and thereby Quality of Growth (QOG) are central to what poor, as also everybody else, would “value the most” in economic progress.
A large, diverse and populous country with a vast geographic spread like India requires mass civic education and an enlightened civil society, both geared to work in tandem to undertake and oversee QOG Missions in order to secure definitive QOG outcomes. Being a part of the Civil Society, let me be elaborate here first; try and look at my own face in the mirror, “could an Interactive Research Website on “Quality of Growth” with an underlying, universally pervasive “pole and polarity of power” thematic spur the much needed civic education in the country as a “desideratum”, if not as an “outcome”, for the success of QOG Missions in the country? India’s leading IT giant Infosys’ Mr. Nandan Nelakeni’s appointment to head the Unique Identification Code (UID) Mission affords a silver lining in this context. To think of a value-rich web-based research portal on QOG Missions without collaborative support is a mute point; and launching the same in participation with others seems to be a logical corollary. Seized as I have been with evocative thoughts like: “what are the cost and revenue streams of such research-based Portal in the public domain? What is the optimal business model to make it a viable enterprise et al, and wish to throw them open for discussion on this blog site?
Seeding Initiative: When Dr. Amartya Sen, India’s renowned Economics Nobel Laureate was queried in a press interview on how he used his prize winnings, he said he invested the sum in an education management consultancy venture in Bangladesh and India. The idea according to him was to create a “seeding organization” that would continually incorporate knowledge and research to “enhance” and “enrich” the current stock of knowledge on how to manage education. In other words, a knowledge bank ! As a true economist, Dr. Sen did not invest the money in a one-off donation to a school, — a dissipative process for sure —, which would have been forgotten as time passed by. Investing in a basic seeding venture that can help grow and multiply good schools, is something like investing in people’s education, that is what we mean by “human capital formation”, sort of capacity building or asset creation, which enables them earn future incomes.
The Web-based Research Portal on QOG Missions that I have in mind wins its spurs from the laudable poverty reduction aspirations such as exemplified above by Dr Amartya Sen. I wish to point out and leave a note of caution here to the GOP-led Government of India. Firstly GOP must note the point made out above, and appreciate that people see the recent budget announcements by Pranab Babu on mega spends like JUNURM, NREGA etc without Delivery Mechanisms (DMs) and, more importantly, proper Monitoring and Evaluation Systems (MES) in place. Such mega projects should pass through the MIMAP tenability and sustainability tests, so that the present Gen Youth are not unduly overburdened, and no part of the current Budget and Cost over runs shall get conveniently passed off to NextGen. So, would you, or, would you not pass off indirect burdens of public debt to the NextGen? Is there a GOI Policy in this context? GOP might like to take a leaf out of the lessons from rhetorical questions posed in like contexts by US President Barrack Obama.
There is a “taut praxis of pole and polarity” surfacing in such policy dilemmas. Unless analyzed and subjected to a MIMAP test, there is a danger that people see them as “conduits for corruption” set up to satisfy the insatiable greed on the part of the the powers that be to abrogate political power “for generations to come via vote banks”, which indeed is bound to be, after all, “a dissipative proposition without any tangible growth outcomes”, in so far as the present generation is concerned. People can easily discern leakages, if any, in such macro missions, considering especially that there is a big hiatus between people and Governments with spaces in the vague recesses of delivery mechanisms wide open down-the-line. Leakages once discovered, the macro missions currently envisaged are so mega that they would attract the ire of the people; however, well articulated a motivation or intent (rationalization) there may be on the part of GOP that they are “alleviating poverty”.
India’s huge 2009-10 Budget deficit of 6.8% surfaces in this context. It is symptomatic, not just only of non-performance in the past, but, viewed in the absence of funding (raising revenues) (no mention whatsoever in the Budget on how the Govt intends to raise/ put in place funds for Mega projects) could be perceived, by the public eye, as what might have presumably been an open license for sleaze, making the JUNURM and NREGA Projects just wishy-washy-on-paper exercises. Transparency should be of utmost concern in such projects. FM’s evasive approach, coupled with lack of clarity point to doubtful intents and perhaps lays bare GOPs penchant for coolly passing off present Gen Public Debt to GenNext. Let the ex-FM Chindambaram speak up and show just five out of the one million ponds he had promised to develop in lieu of shelving off (negating) Suresh Prabhu’s “Garland Canal Project” in his 2004-05 Budget speech. Today in Pune, because of delayed monsoon, people are burdened on the one hand with hefty water cuts, and since water supply depends on power availbility, Puneites are caught up in a visciou circle; there is no redemption from chronic power cuts either anytime soon. How much people have wished to see the announcement of a Mega project like the “Garland Canal Project” which is an “investment” in contrast to a “dissipative” farmer’s loan waiver of a mind boggling Rs 78K crores last budget year 2008-09. It is the cascading effect of such oversight on the part of the powers that be that might be getting reflected on the ballooning 2009-10 budget deficit.
Quality of Growth Missions and Quality of Life
The issues encompassed by QOG, listed below as WOG Missions, endeavors are very relevant to developing countries as well as to pockets of relative under development even in the advanced countries. The current international financial meltdown is gradually heralding a new era whereby a strong India, well-oiled and largely decoupled from dependence on the western “domino effect”, is emerging winning its spurs in prosperity and growth.
So here is the stage set as manifest in a discernible point of inflection for a self-sustained take-off for India (remember “Limits to Growth” by W.W. Rostoff?). Frequent, profligate indulgence on the part of India’s Public Works/Road Building contractors in the use of “Makadam without Tar” in all of Pune Municipal Corporation’s road constructions, no doubt, puts a big question mark, as they (the builders) evince no appreciation whatsoever of the fact that a road is a public asset, it should have a life of at least five years. Despite an eminent personality like Mr Sridharan at the helm of affairs of Delhi Metro, the recent crash of Metro-Skyway girders near Lady Shri Ram (LSR) College, East of Kailash in New Delhi (and several other accidents earlier while construction was in progress) represent eminent cases in point, how reckless we are about quality !.
While in quite of a few countries, awareness of what constitutes QOG is dismal, in certain countries, the issue is sidelined by bureaucratic apathy. Leave aside apathy, India’s sheer geographic size and diversity vis-à-vis “excessive centralization” of macro policy making at one monolithic power centre in Delhi”, has been a mismatch, precluding the possibility of growth outcomes that reflect and ensure quality of life of millions of people in the length and breadth of India. How can one monolithic Central Government deliver quality of life to a a population as large as 1.2 bilion? So the time for decentralization of power is now. Sometimes GOP cites Sarkaria Commission on Center-State Financial Relationshps, but grants hefty allocations to favored states, ignores other staes. The recent election issue raised by Bihar Chief Minister Mr Nitish Kumar, shortage/ denial of Funds for building a Dam on Koshi River (their River of Sorrow every year), and on top of it asking them t(the Bihar Govt) to refund the allocation. States of the size of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh etc when they have crossed a population threshold of 5 crores (500 million) should be graded as “outgrown” states; they should be nurtured and groomed as “grown up “ states. capable of managing their development and growth (QOG eh?) on their own ! Decentralization i.e., devolution of power to states is the only answer; and perhaps, a Kashmir solution fits into such a scheme of things fortuitously, and perfectly eminently. There is a tide in the affairs of Nations, but time and again India misses out on the development bus, seems to be more often of its own volition !!!, rationalizing past performing deficits as traceable to some onerous burden of commitment for “poverty alleviation” (very likely yes, downright dissipative, in a 15-Paisa delivery context).
Whither Quality? A Peep into Past
In 1996 when Queen Elizabeth was on a state visit to India, she commented amidst a public relations disaster at the Chennai airport, that Indian cities today are dirtier than they were when the British left India in 1947. In 1984, after Indira Gandhi assassination, when the name of Rajiv Gandhi’s candidacy was mooted as the Congress President-to– be, paving the way to take over as the Prime Minister in 1985, there was a series of newspaper articles eulogizing his technical/ engineering competencies. A Hindusthan Times article said that, Congress is like a train, and when it derails, Rajiv has the capacity to put it back on track, “Rajiv is capable of cleaning the “Aegean stables of Congress”. Soon after Rajiv took over reins as PM, the article patted Rajiv, who ordered the cleaning of the River Ganges as a major infrastructure project. But today, some 20 years later, our holy river Ganges is still highly polluted, a la Ram Teri Ganga Maili Ho Gayee. The Authorities have not provided enough, nor is there a clear cut Policy ensconced, and made sacrosanct, to ensure regular maintenance and upkeep of the river front all along its stretch.
QUALITY OF GROWTH MISSIONS
Major Thematics/ Recommended Micro-Missions
[a]-Awareness Campaign on Quality of Growth
To be launched under a single Thematic: viz., Sensitizing all concerned: government, politicians policy makers and civil society on the need for quality of growth, its limits and economic consequences, citizens rights and responsibilities
[b]-The Governance Mission
Major Thematics: Decentralization and Devolution of Power are importantant pre-conditions – Governance Technology – Vision, Reforms and Macro-economic Strategy – Policy Process Re-engineering/ The MIMAP Sieves – Good Governance Communications – Security and Foreign Policy – Transparency- Toward a decentralized democratic polity – Gender equity and empowerment – Civil society/ NGOs – Inclusion/ Participation – Executive, Judiciary, their independence – Governance process re-engineering – Change management – Ensconcement of Delivery, Monitoring & Evaluation Mechanisms (DMEs) – Transparency and Accountability Monitors – PSU Disinvestment/Privatization (free markets) – Positioning India to engage with changing trends in Globalization – Deregulation & Competition Law – Corporate Governance – Corporate Social Responsibility et al
[c]-The Environment and Sustainability Mission
Major Thematics Ecosystem zoning, Water Resources incl. Water-shed Management and Bio-diversity – Urban and Rural utilities – Hygiene & Sanitation Services – Environmental Pollution Economic – Legal Admin Systems to enforce Environmental Regulatory Laws – Institutional Infrastructure to Implement the above;
[d]-Infrastructure (Social Overheads) Development and Management Mission:
Major Thematics: Social Overheads/ Welfare/Safety nets – Communities and Social Capital – Human resources Development – Healthcare and Welfare – Judiciary and Legal Systems Fostering a healthy community interaction Cause-related Marketing to build Social Capital Universal Education, Ensure Equitable Opportunities in Healthcare for all – Executive vs Judiciary, Independence and Inter-dependence – Pension Funds, Safetynets – and their Outreach, especially to poor, in a cost effective manner – Old age care, Pensions and Safetynets – Need for Certified Actuaries
[e]-Infrastructure for Greater, Safer, Faster Mobility thereby “Greater Productivity” Mission
Major Thematics: Enabling/ capacity building for gainful economic activity via world class nfrastructure (hotch potch, rag-tag work this time, cost and budget overruns monitored, deviances/ defectives in quality shall be punitively punished): Power-Telecoms–Railways- Roadways-Airports-Sea Ports-Inland/Coastal Waterways-all these development will be integrated with a “Trade and Tourism-centric Approach” with a view to providing marketing opportunities. such as outlets/ opportunities for products/ services from the poorer urban/ rural/ tribal folks – Push the case for mega projects – High Profile Public Places -National Heritage and Tourist Resorts to provide outlets for crafts/ creative art exhibitions – Provide opportunities to showcase the wares offered by the poor – Use event marketing and multi-media to project them to wider audiences.
Groundwater levels are fast depleting in our country. But only in summer, some noises are made about rain water conservation and watershed management. whereas neighboring China, in brazen defiance of a United Nations Convention opposing the Construction of Dams, went ahead with its Seven Gorges Dam, a Mega River Valley Project on the Hyuyong Ho-Yangtse River Link (the Rivers of Sorrow). But in India, the Sardar Sarovar dam still faces opposition from Narmada Bachao Andolan, although its human rights dimension is challenged in the UN Fora in Geneva. When a river is in flood, the level of turbulence will be high, and any attempt to construct a dam on a turbulent river proves to be futile. Kolkota had taken 18-very very arduous long years to complete just a 25-km stretch of its prized “Underground Metro”. The metro authorities had to wade through a jungle of administrative, urban development and legal roadblocks before they could progress to reach it even to the first 10-km stage, often resulting in cost and budget overruns.
In the thick of this maze, a “cut and sue” approach was adopted as a way out, which was later discovered and vetted by experts as an eminently workable solution. After eighteen long years of travails and tribulations, the Kolkata metro was flagged off. Being a shoe piece, Kolkata metro was spick and span at least initially. Bengalis are proud of it as it was the outcome of the “sweat of their brow”, an outcome of Bengal’s very own painstakingly rote manual labor. Native imprint of whatever nature creates pride in ownership and maintenance, certainly not a pervasive Rajiv-Indira footprint all over whether people want it or not.
Is any body assessing the cost and budget over runs of planned and sanctioned projects over the past twenty years begging for funding in the “eminently non-performing Maharashtra”, whose rulers evince considerable alacrity only to get Techno-economic Feasibilty Studies done repeatedly, honestly, at ever escalating costs, which money, — itself so huge –, if spent earlier, would have brought some projects into reality ?
The Indian Railways’ Research Designs and Standards Organization (RDSO), Lucknow, a CSIR laboratory, developed the double-decker coaches in 1978, which were tried for over 15 years (1983-98) (Panchavati Eexpress (Mumbai-Nasik) and Simhagadh Express (Mumbai-Pune), but eventually they were phased out by 2000. It thus appears that the RDSO has never undertaken any real R&D. Would privatization of CSIR laboratories change all this? It was only after the traveling public had witnessed as many as seven train accidents in 2002, that the then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar got into action (not Laloo Prasad) to realize and reiterate the importance, if not order for the automatic safety/ collision prevention systems for the Indian railways.
THE SHRILL OF OUTCRY FOR DEVELOPMENT REVERBERATES
We respect Pranab Babu for his long years of experience with the GOP. But well into his mid seventies, we are afraid a pussyfooting Pranabda just could not articulate the television projectiles required to address an avid National and International audience comprising Captains of Industry, CMs/FMs of State Governments and other sub-national dispensations, intellectuals and thinktanks, major Western Govts, FIIs and Rating Institutions like (Standard & Poor) –all awaiting India’s FY 2009-10 budget with bated breath ! Though rich in content, — the FM gave a lousy impression of an India still lazily trudging along, slumbering and smarting under the commanding heights of public sector, and lay shackled in a command and control economy mold of the seventies -– sorry the FM just can’t articulate and deliver. Certainly, he is not India’s deliverer of 21st century infrastucture, education and healthcare !!!.
It is obvious then that India still wishes to maintain a tortoise like pace even during the “meltdown times”. Why so ? ETNOW says, It is not the 6.8% Budget deficit, Stupid, but the more alarming, 400% ballooning Revenue deficit. So blame it on meltdown ! The USA, UK, Japan, Germany et al — all without exeception — reeling under meltdown have been happy, that at least India and China have been “decoupled”, and that hereafter they will deliver by following import-led growth policies. But look at Pranab Babu’s Budget-2009-10, indeed it has belied all expectations, and the PM has gone to G8 Meeting in Italy to lecture USA/ UK to perform better and deliver, so that India can continue to “export”. People are asking how long would India, at a retiring age of 62-yrs post Independence, ask USA/ UK to hold its hand, lest it fall, as it is, still at 62-yrs, not ashamed to say that it is still taking “baby steps” towards development. Shame indeed. How long will India need this handhoding by the West ? Till the poverty of all Indians is wiped out ? Whose poverty and who is responsible for such state of affairs nobody seems to bother.
So, Sir, this is 2009, just eleven years away from our avowed dream of a World Class India by 2020. In contrast, look at what happened in a small non-descript, big-brother dependent, small island country “Bahrain”, that as early as in 1984! The Arabian Gulf’s smallest and big-brother duo, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia announced a 25-km Bahrain-Saudi Causeway across the Arabian Gulf waters then showcased as a space age project. They completed it in a record 18-months time and inaugurated it by Dec 1985. Dubai and Singapore have undersea causeways. Neither India’s Mumbai (Shanghai is a far far far cry), nor the eternally dirty Calcutta, nor the poor Chennai has none of that in 62- long long years of independence. Are we a quarter century behind even the tiny Arabian Gulf countries? The Bandra Worli Sealink (BWSL), no sooner inaugurated just last week (it had a gestation period of l8-long years) than it was the site of a trawler tango (entanglement) the very next day after its inaguration.
Thanks to builder-politician nexus, both planners and builders are patently unconcerned about even the minimalest of minimal quality standards, what to talk about “world class”! Gung ho on qualitylessness in infrastructure spends, and the planning and funding processes, preceding and interceding, with a plethora of unending techno-economic feasibility studies, citizens of this country are fed up with Congress then and GOP-led UPA now pussyfooting every time, every time indeed, as for sure the people of this country have been meted out a step-motherly treatment past 62+ yrs. Look at India’s Railway stations, Bus Terminals, even in metro cities, stink, dirt and squalor, litter of vegetible skins and plastic bags strewn all over, a national disgrace is anunder statement. The great Indian metros with populations in excess of 10 million have no good safe “public places”, nor “Town Halls”, what to talk of “High Profile Iconic Public Places”, where people can go and relax.
Pune, the Oxford of India, has the most third class eyesore of a Flyover (on its main arterial Ganesh Khind Road), Look at its hotch-potch pavements, dug up at least five times since completion of that “Prestigeous Road” in Oct 2008 preparatory to Commonwealth Youth Games. They have used Rs 2.5K crores (escalated to Rs 3.8K crores) of JUNURM funds meant for urban renewal for this. Urban renewal does not mean laying a new cement road on a good old road, flouting all conventional wisdom on road building.
India’s stinking, rickety, ram-shackle Railway Stations with suffocating low-level asbestos roofs without proper air circulators, some roofs converted as homes, for riff-raffs right from the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus to the busy Churchgate. Dadar, Mahim, Bandra, Andheri, Jogeshwari, Malad, Borivali, Virar on Mumbai’s West Suburban Railway, and Chinchpolkili, Koliwada, Wadala, Kurla, Vikhroli, Thane, Dombivili, Kalyan on the East, thereon Karjat, Lonavla and Pune, in all these places (remember people, even common people — Mumbaikers and Puneites — read English newspapers) — where we should have, by now, seen a Maglev Bullet Train zooming past connecting Mumbai-Pune, the list is endless –, all our Railway stations, without any exception, are third rate “eye sores”. The Station Area Development Projects planned as recently as in 2003 obviously have’nt worked, or probably, not seen the light of the day yet.
The Dhabhol Power Plant “reportedly” will reach its rated capacity in 2010;after 20 long years of wait; even that too is uncertain considering that the project has gone through a decade long process of flip flop negotiations, and election time announcements. In the meantime Maharashtra’s hinterland reels under power cuts on an averagae of 3 hours every summer for the past 20 years. Don’t the policy makers know that one day without power means so much loss of state GDP? The seafronts of Mumbai, Balasore, Chandipur (Berhampur, Orissa), Vizag, Kakinada Machilipatnam, Pondicherry, Tuticorin, Cochi, Mangalore and Goa should have been developed by now. It is the CACOON- like syndrome, being played by the GOP to the hilt time and again, that is causing irreparable damage to India’s bid to arrive in the comity of developed nations.
A far too long, protracted wait even for meeting the basic minimum infrastructure needs of the people of the country is taking so much time, when will India get World Class infrastructure ? 2050 ? Sorry, by that time India might see yet another meltdown. As per Russian economists world economy will be frequented once in 50 to 70-yrs by what are known as “Khondra Tieff Cycles”, long-term secular business cycles causing “upheavalistic changes” (as did the Great depression of 1930s , which over a prolonged, arduous 11-yr turmoil led the World to the Second World War (1939-43). So India can ill afford to miss out on the growth opportunities presented by the 2008 meltdown. Shall we remember again, the great Shakespearean quote, “there is a tide in the affairs of men (so for nation states too), which, taken at the ebb, lead them on to prosperity, missed out, they will plunge them into untold depths of despair, misery and disappointments. So from now on India shall have zero toleance to tardy growth, yes, from now on.
Our FM Pranabda’s 2009-10 Budget needs to be x-rayed in this context. Instead of seeking a landmark reforms (that are long overdue, like, say, the McInsey Commission recommendations on Land Reforms) budget was a damp squib ! Reason a ballooning 400 % increase in revenue deficit! By remaining silent on how he intends raising resouces and not announcing any Capital-Forming mega Projects, nor any Institutional Reforms, Pranab Babu has chosen to relegate India to the lowliest status (?) as though “India is perpetually a sort of haven for the slumdog poor.” and on top of it praised Madame Gandhi’s policy of 1966-67 ” Bank Nationalization” as visionary. And it requires only a fortuitous confluence of circumstances only — a worldwide financial meltdown-combined with India’s dire need to throw FRBM norms towinds to make up for past five years of non-performance. What kinda call one can take on that ! It is this image of India conjured up by the 2009-10 budget that has disappointed the stock market, resented all over the country as it has almost taken the entire people of our nation by surprise, and indeed “for a ride” to a state of utter despair and disappointment. It appears GOP is enveloped by a collective psychosomatic disorder viz., a state of “Paranoia of sorts”, that entails shock treatments of sorts to its own body politic, the very medicine, viz., belt tightening when itcomes to “capital spends”, it is administering to lull the nation into a Cacoon like shell.
Unimaginative persistence with punitive direct tax burden (33%), and that at a time (1980-2000) when growth and quality of development was most needed, has stifled our people’s aspirations. Such utterly visionless stance smacks of total bankruptcy in GOIs ability to gauge the moods and needs of the people with a sense of urgency, alacrity and circumspection. Last but not the least, GOP is evincing an utter lack of sense of proportion again in appreciating the IDRC’s MIMAP that has often been GOP’s anathema resulting from an unending series of “compulsive” “serial” legacies of non-performance — (they killed people’s enthusiasm and enterprise for development time and again remorselessly in the name of “Garibi Hatao”, and made them risk averse).
Such chronic proclivity to non–performance/ inaction brought forward into current year seems to have badly dented GOI’s transparency space in terms of degrees freedom with optimal, prioritized resource allocations in the 2009-10 budget exercise, which certainly is inimical to growth. The year 1977 was a landmark year for the antagonists of GOP. Post emergency (1977) alleged corruption in loan disbursements during (1977-85), Reliances’ Convertible Debentures’ scam, leading later on, at a high macro level, to unearthing the Bofors scam, the Harshad Mehta Scam, Subrahmaniam’s (UTI) scam, Sukh Ram’s Telecom scam, and pre-1977 Mundhra-TTK-LIC scam, V. Krishna Murthy (BHEL) scam, Sanjeeva Reddy (strictures on steel imports1962) — scam after scam ~ the list is a veritable blueprint !; and researcher’s delight to comprehend what is transparency about, and what needs to be done to ensure it for good governance. We shall talk about smart Governance later.
The Nation’s economic landscape during the decade 1976-85 was characterized by excessive credit squeeze that stifled growth. At that time, there was no talk of reform at all, as the World Bank/ IMF were still researching and debating whether or not, in the first instance, to make those policy prescriptions available to developing countries. And that was the time when Maharashtra CM Abdul Rahman Antulay introduced a “No Objection Certificate” in the real estate sector, especially the residential housing sector, when there was no need for such a certificate at all, and he made it compulsory. Thus looking back, one might aver “often this was a process of superficial shortages “created” where there was none, and comouflaging GOI’s “inaction” with continually invented “spectres of doomsday scenarios” for public consumption e.g., they said bank NPAs was a major problem—all articulated so well to administer the “CACOON PILL”, and GOP’s addiction to it so well rationalized in unision by GOP politicians of all stripes, that addiction to the “CACOON PILL” has become more a rule than an exception, and such addiction was internalized and professed and asserted as a virtue. That it is downright (zeugma intended) a “Lullaby Rhetoric” to camouflage GOP’s non-performance traceable to Policy Flip-Flops, bankruptcy of vision, a PWD,. Is this what has led to stashing away Rs 750K Crores in Swiss Bank Accounts, — noted by the common man as corruption- but God knows the truth. If GOP is indeed transparent, they should explain not their present performance, but the past non-performamce.
The lesson is India should come out of its cocoon like shell, of an image where “Garibi Hatao” (Indira Gandhi) and “Garib Desh” were virtues (After enjoying patronage for a long 37-yr innings as a Cabinent Minister, Jagjeevan Rams said “India Garib Desh hai “ in his opening speech when he ditched GOP and joined Janata Dal in 1977 General Elections, when Madame Gandhi had met with a humiliating defeat in UP’s “Rae Bareilly”, the citadel of dynastic power in the wake of a sudden burst of popularity of a ubiquitous Raj Narayan).
The Short Shrift: A major factor responsible for the dismal absence of “quality of growth” and so “quality of life” in India is poor Governance. Large-scale corruption has allowed domestic elites and people weilding transnational lobbying power, influence Governments to steer policies and bend the laws to their advantage. Which indeed has stifled and blighted the development of our country. The lobbyists have appropriated huge resources wholesale at a the nation’s cost under the very nose of toothless surveillance authority, the one and only Comptroller and Auditor General of India, who never indicted any builder for non-performance? This is utter prostitution of the constitution of Institutions, supposed to be pillars of democracy.
Post 2009 General Elections, the recent din of Rs 750K crores of India’s public money alleged to have been stashed away in Swiss Banks has subsided; but the shrill of its hue and cry still wrankles in the minds of common men of India, who, for 62 long years as of now, have been made to wait for better infrastructure, — you the powers that be, get pushed into at Ghatkopar Railway station any of the day, travel in Mumbai’s crowded suburban trains and experience the stink around the railway stations!. Utterly sadly even now Mumbai’s sub-urban railway is still smarting in suffocation without any light at the end of the tunnel. Does it require a Narayan Murthy to tell you that the common men of India need safe comfortable travel from home to office and back ? And you want to award all these infra-structure contracts to local builder sharks, who have no concern whatsoever for quality ? When will you make Mumbai a Shanghai ? OR, Shanghai is not your benchmark ?
Three major issues rocked the country in 2002: The “Armsgate” (the Tehelka expose on corruption in defense deals, still under investigation), telecom policy, and introduction of eco-friendly CNG buses in the national capital, New Delhi; and more recently the state government subjects: e.g., The Development Plan of Pune, the Cable Service operators, and the imbroglio on Enron’s Dhabhol Power Project. At a time when Western Maharashtra region which contributes to significant FX earnings to the exchequer, is reeling under power shortages, the government was groping, between 1999-2005, with Enron, USA bogged down by litigation with international lenders’ consortium. The Maha Govt is blissfully unaware of the economic consequences, the extent of daily loss to the state GDP and Exports.
All the above follies and policy flip flops are of Government’s own making as the policy vision is unclear, the issues were fuzzy. In all these, Governments have been increasingly prone to politicizing the issues and flip-flopped in policy formulation and implementation. In the telecom sector and CNG, the policy makers put the free market economics on the back burner, with the result that the average consumer is getting a short shrift.
Some of the politicians seem to be blissfully ignorant of the micro impact of macro economic policies, and in core sectors critical to the long-term well being of its people. policy making principles and long-term interests are cavalierly compromised and abdicated to vested interests. Often the situation is that bad policies are imposed top down. lThey are now severing the country’s debt management responsibility from the RBI, yet another anti-reform measure, a n avoidable debilitating interference in a well functioning Reserve Bank of India (RBI), like this the list is endless. At times it might be true that both Ministers and their Secretaries in India’s key economic ministries are honest; but someare proud, arrogant and ill equipped to understand the complexity of economics of modern high technology.
Recently the Bangalore Municipal authorities were taken to task by the captains of industry in Bangalore for its poor municipal water and road infrastructure. The captains of industry in Mumbai pressed for the enactment of a “political responsibility law” after the Mithi River Infrastructure Disaster in Mumbai in 2005 monsoon, and have now forgottten about it. At least the Media shrewdly ignored and under reported it. So Finance Minister, Sir, what would you choose? Prudent Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) ? Political Responsibility Law? or bissful ignorance? How about the 400% ballooning Revenue deficit in fiscal 2009-10. These questions beg for an X-Ray look. We agree with you in softpedalling FRBM in the interest of growth. But people need to know why the 6.8% budget defict has occurred in the first instance.
Influence pedaling by industry lures politicians into their orbit, and citizens get a short shrift again. Politicians need to be educated and sensitized to the economic implications of their lackadaisical policy interventions. In contrast to the above, the Chinese experience with transition to market economy and how they achieved it through SEZs with a resounding success, offers quite a few lessons for India.