For India to acquire the look, efficiency and skill levels of some of its Southeast Asian neighbours, it needs to become a middle-income nation.
As a low income, grossly unhealthy country inadequately equipped in basic education to enhance even traditional skills, India is far away from that goal. To make the transition, it needs to strike a developmental balance.
No, underwriting bad corporate loans will not achieve that. Nor will competitive welfarism. Why do political parties get into this race to revive a patchwork socialism?
Because three decades of economic reforms and the disparity between the haves and the have-nots is so stark that it’s difficult to seek votes without addressing the disparities staring at our face.
The farm sector is caught in a paradox of growth, industry (big, medium or small) is off colour, the global economy is in slo-mo, big boys like the US are going back to protectionism and trade wars.
So there seems no option other than to go for the poll dole to sell the idea that a future exists. The ruling dispensation, therefore, rolled out the PM-Kisan Yojana and a healthcare programme for the poor.
Now, just weeks from the first phase of polling, Rahul Gandhi has proposed what he called a ‘last strike on poverty’.
Hyperbole apart, NYAY, basically an income top-up scheme for families earning less than Rs 12,000 a month, would cost the exchequer a few lakh crores a year.
The Congress has been rather coy about disclosing the details—such as, where will the money come from, what happens to existing subsidies, and finally how will such a scheme be implemented. Will it help spur demand?
Will it mean more taxes for the already overtaxed?
No one can argue against programmes addressing poverty eradication. But it can’t be an either/or vis-a-vis what Dr Manmohan Singh once called the ‘animal spirits’. It always takes two to tango!