Wednesday, February 26, 2014

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.

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