In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Make It Anywhere.”
GOVERNANCE AND QUALITY OF GROWTH
Tourism is an exchange earning industry with a high potential for providing “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 propounded 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, might deliver in this context. Such a Portal should identify different sets of contextualities and conditions, brain-storm to diagnose/ prognose issues, and undertake research to establish Public Policy Prescriptions, Interventions together with Delivery, Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanisms as appropriate, and communicating/ pointcasting the same to steer development efforts toward QOG Outcomes.
Qogpaths: Structuring different combinations of development contexts and conditions with appropriate Public Policy Interventions (PPIs) woven into them as “QOG Missions”, and casting them into an assortment of prognostic and diagnostic e-Governance tools represents an ambitious, 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 a “QOGPATH”, a pathway for QOG Outcomes. To be perfected over a period of time, the QOGPATHs can assembled into an assortment of e-Governance Tool Kits, Diagnostic and Prognostic with Add Ons as appropriate, packaged as a slew of marketable products within the ambit of an e-Gov Technology Consultancy canvas. Predicating on the success of such a e-Gov Tech Consultancy are its Costing, Pricing and Revenue Management fields set on an appropriate business model. The effort entails studious web-based collaborative research as a basic on-going “organizational mission”, as also, at times, as the need arises, cast in the mold of MIMAP exercises envisaged by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada. QOGPATHs with their efficacy tested on MIMAP criteria are akin to a doctor’s prescriptions in both prognostic and diagnostic 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 as a rule 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, where gross under investments inherited as a legacy of an erstwhile “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 Grand Old Party (GOP)’s–governance. India’s current literacy rates and its position low down at the bottom of the world’s Healthcare Indices reveal how dismally lackadaisical and negligent the Government of India (GOI)’s 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 channelled to finance development. A small country like Chile (Latin America) was internationally acclaimed in even in mid eighties as a success story for tapping its corpus of Pension Funds for financing infrastructure development. It has taken 25-long years for India to emulate Chile. Mr. P. Chidambaram, ex-Finance Minister, announced in FY 2004-05 Budget that he was planning to do the same in the FY 2005-06 budget. And now in 2009, we are reportedly just taking “baby steps” into Pension Funds as of Dec ‘08.
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 make 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 (lay frozen) in these “defective” assets.
Property rights, lack of legal systems: Soto’s extensive research in Philippines, Egypt, Peru and Haiti revealed that about 85% of “urban parcels” and between 40-55% of “rural records” in the Third World were 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 (at 1990 prices), — which was reckoned as 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 own volition to assert their legitimate right 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 for 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/ discourse. 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.
Towards an India with a QOG Focus: A socio-economic fundamental of far reaching importance in a large country with vast geographic spread and diversity of demographics like India is a massive, vibrant social infrastructure for delivery of education. An enlightened civil society, geared to work in tandem with all socio-economic sectors, can undertake and oversee QOG Missions with great facility and alacrity in securing definitive QOG outcomes. Being a part of a “nascent evolving” “educated Civil Society In India” in the “modern sense of the phrase”, may I pose the problem first; “could an “Interactive Research Website on Quality of Growth” with an underlying, universally pervasive “pole and polarity of power” thematic spur the much needed basic focus on civic education in the country to start with, as a “desideratum”, if not as an “outcome”, for successful fulfilment of QOG Missions? 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 posers like: “what are the cost and revenue streams of such Research-driven Portal in the public domain? What is the optimal business model that best fits in this context to make it a viable enterprise on e-Gov Technology for QOG et al? It is against this background that I have, in the recent past mulling over a comeback from tweets to Blogging, and have plunged into blogging as a medium for research discourse and have therefore thrown open my ideas on this blog site.
Seeding Initiative: When Dr. Amartya Sen, India’s renowned Economics Nobel Laureate, queried in a press interview on how he had used his prize winnings, said he had invested the sum in an Education Management Consultancy Venture in Bangladesh and India. The idea, according to Dr. Sen, was to create a “seeding organization” that would continually incorporate knowledge and research to “enhance” and “enrich” the stock of knowledge on how to manage education. In other words, a knowledge bank! A down-to-earth pro-poor, practical economist to the core, 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”; it’s a 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 (GOI). Firstly GOI must note the point made out above, and appreciate that people these days are capable of discerning the “elements of truth” and sit in judgement of GOI’s “sincerity and credibility” in 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 muster 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 present burden 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, and made transparent, people see them as “conduits” to satisfy political greed to abrogate political power “for generations to come via vote banks”, which, if unchecked, is bound to be, “dissipative” precluding any tangible growth outcomes”. Leakages in such macro missions can be easily gauged especially because India’s size and diversity inevitably drive a hiatus between people and Governments, leaving gaping holes for slippages 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 are vulnerable to people’s ire as they see them as hollow promises, however, well articulated GOP’s motivation or intent (rationalization) may be that they are on the move toward lofty ideals like “transforming Mumbai as Shanghai”, “eliminating slums in the next xx years”, “alleviating poverty”. I have recently travelled by car to Sahar Airport via Mankhurd- Ghatkopar Road, where work on Mumbai Metro currently in progress is woefully lacking in its quality statement. Almost entire section of the skyway metro is dangerously close to improvised, densely populated slumlike housing structures on either side of the track, throwing all concerns of Safety to winds. It is absolutely necessary that the GOI’s Ministries of Urban Development, Railways, Environment, and Civil Society put their heads together and evolve safety and environmental standards, and see to it that the state government concerned (Govt of Maharashtra) follow them strictly.
Quality of Growth Missions and Quality of Life
The QOG Issues and Missions: Listed below are a set off QOG Missions. The endeavours 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 seen to be emerging winning its spurs in prosperity and growth.
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, politician’s policy makers and civil society on the need for quality of growth, its limits and economic consequences, citizen’s rights and responsibilities
[b]-The Governance Mission
Major Thematic: Decentralization and Devolution of Power are important 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 – Establishing efficient Delivery, Monitoring & Evaluation Mechanisms (DMEs) – Transparency and Accountability Monitors (TAMs) – PSU Disinvestment/Privatization (free markets) – Positioning India to continually stay engaged with changing trends in Globalization – Deregulation & Competition Law – Corporate Governance – Corporate Social Responsibility et al
[c]-The Environment and Sustainability Mission
Major Thematic: 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. India’s “SwachchBharat” campaign recently launched by PM Narendra Modi is unique in this genre;
[d]-Infrastructure (Social Overheads) Development and Management Mission
Major Thematic: 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, Safety nets – and their Outreach, especially to poor, in a cost effective manner – Old age care, Pensions and Safety nets – Need for Certified Actuaries
[e]-Infrastructure for Greater, Safer, Faster Mobility thereby “Greater Productivity” Mission
Major Thematic: Enabling/ capacity building for gainful economic activity via world class infrastructure (no hotch potch, rag-tag work this time, with cost and budget overruns, deviances/ defectives in quality monitored and punitively punished by Auditor & Accountant General of India): Power-Telecoms–Railways- Roadways-Airports-Sea Ports-Inland/Coastal Waterways-all these developments 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- Mega Theme Parks in large Metros and in the vicinity of National Heritage and Tourist Resorts to afford marketing outlets for village 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.
Nyayapati Balramdas, Pune, India