Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Moving response on the BIG beast

You asked one of your interviewees “Is Government dying?” — a question many on the street are asking. What would be your response to the question?

In its current form, there is a real risk to government as an institution. However, all of us need governance; we need a collective process that must have some form of regulation. In India, we need to step back and think of our great grandchildren, we need to ask ourselves, would they be better off because we were there before them? We need to work backwards from that sense of a timeline and make some far reaching changes. These changes can’t be done on the streets. They can’t be done in anger. Anger is a bad emotion, it is meant for dealing with fleeting risks, not for architecting generational change. More here.

Some new ideas

Recently Dr.Ashok Desai wrote a very interesting article in the TT. The piece is must read one for all those interested in some cutting edge ides of public policies which can be pondered for debate. The following are the main points from his very insightful piece:

  • "First, India should complete trade liberalization, and abolish all import restrictions — in particular, the remaining customs duties, and the negative list. It should introduce unilateral free trade.
  • Second, India should become more maritime. It should construct a couple of dozen artificial ports that would take ships of draft up to 20 meters. The government should for a while subsidize ships that would provide regular passenger and cargo services, between these ports as well as to ports in Indian Ocean countries.
  • Third, India should abolish the monopoly of states in electricity. The ideal is to ensure that anyone can sell electricity to anyone else. The transportation and distribution networks would have to be common, and are best owned by the government.
  • Fourth, the present states should be replaced by a hundred-odd states, each centred on a city of half a million people or more. Some adjustment may be required in regions with few large cities; some states may have to be created with smaller capitals. 
  • Fifth, state languages should be abolished. Every one of the hundred-odd new states will have a dominant language; but the people should be given the right to use any of the hundreds of languages spoken in India, and deprived of the pleasure of imposing their language on anyone. The language of government as well as private business should be Indian English.
  • Sixth, all government schools should be privatized; instead, all qualifying schools should be subsidized. There should be a central examination that children may take after six years of schooling; children should be free to take it at any time, even if they do not go to school. It should cover only English, mathematics, and any one other Indian language; the language should be optional. The marks of all children from a school taking the central examination should be averaged. Every school should get three subsidies: one based on the number of students, another on the number completing six years and taking the examination, and a third on the average marks in the central examination.
  • Seventh, the present first-past-the-post system of election should be replaced by a hybrid system: 10 per cent of the seats should be subject to the present system, and 90 per cent should be filled on the basis of proportional representation. Prime ministers and chief ministers should be replaced by presidents; they should be free to choose members of their cabinets from elected as well as unelected people.
  • Eighth, the present division of taxes between the Centre, states and local authorities should be abolished. Taxes should be determined and levied by the Centre; the revenue should be distributed between various levels of government by a periodic finance commission.
  • Ninth, whilst taxation must be progressive, the government must not give income subsidies as such to the poor: there are too many of them, and their identification creates uncontrollable opportunities for patronage and corruption. The government’s primary function should be to spend on infrastructure and on public goods. If it spends on people, it should be on the basis of their inability to support themselves — for instance, orphans and old people, sick and disabled people. 
  • Tenth, taxes should be high both on vehicles and on transport fuels, principally petrol and diesel. 
  • Finally, governments at all levels should run lotteries, races and other betting games, revenue from which should be used to finance innovation and risk taking."

Other readings:

  • "It is very surprising and indeed very depressing to note that Dr. Ambedkar is always seen as a leader of untouchables. Of course, he was their messiah, the ultimate champion of human rights. We are doing great disservice to ourselves by treating Dr. Ambedkar only as a leader of Dalits or leader of untouchables. He was much more than that. Very reluctantly, he is recognised as the principal architect of the Indian Constitution. To my mind, Dr. Ambedkar was a national leader. Period." More here.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

AAP, Sen and others

"Yet if liberals are to create common ground with socialists and Marxists in the AAP, Sen and Dreze offer a promising blueprint, despite some shortcomings. It would be silly for the liberals to cite Adam Smith or Friedrich Hayek as appropriate gurus for the AAP Committee. Even Bhagwati will be unacceptable. Amartya Sen, in his latest avataar, fits the bill. Klitgaard is a good supplement." More here.

"I have an aim, I have a clear aim in my mind and the aim is that I do not like what I see in Indian politics, it is something that is inside my heart. It is like in our mythology when they talk about Arjun, he only sees one thing, he does not see anything else, you asked me about Mr. Modi you ask me about anything and the thing that I see is that the system in this country needs to change, I don't see anything else and I am blind to everything else. I am blind because I saw people I love destroyed by the system. I am blind because the system everyday is unfair to our people, I ask you today, you come from Assam and I am sure that you also in your work feel the unfairness of the system". More here

"Few countries in the world have been blessed with all the resources needed to create prosperity on a mass scale, but India has remained incapable of providing even drinking water to its people because of bad economic policies and a stunted, shabby idea of our place in the world." More here.