Rural rejuvenation: The anatomy of a failed strategy-Niranjan Rajadhyaksha (Mint, 11 June 2015)

The clock has turned full circle: rural distress is climbing once again.
Let us rewind to the year 2004. The National Democratic Alliance surprisingly lost the national election. The new alliance that took power that year was led by a rejuvenated Congress. The party believed it had won because the previous government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had ignored the rural areas. Manmohan Singh became the new prime minister. His speech to the nation on 15 August 2004 mentioned the need of a New Deal for rural India. The focus would be investments in irrigation, rural roads, electricity, primary education and agricultural infrastructure.
The actual strategy of his government over the next 10 years was quite different from what had been suggested initially. The United Progressive Alliance focused on policies that do not seem to have done much to free Indian farmers from the unending cycle of distress. Here are some elements of that failed strategy:a

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Busting the government myths around land acquisition law (India Resists, May 4, 2015)

Image result for land acquisition bill 2014Information received from the Finance Ministry through RTI calls the bluff of government claims.

A big question that is begging a credible answer today is- why is the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government hell bent on road rolling amendments on to the land acquisition law without even implementing it despite vociferous opposition from several quarters.

Several spokespersons for the government and the political parties which support it have repeatedly said that the amendments to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR Act) enacted by Parliament in 2013, first promulgated as an Ordinance and then re-promulgated because they could not get the approval of Parliament last month, are necessary to arrest the slowing down of the economy and breathing life into the stalled development projects. The mainstay of this argument has been that the process of acquiring privately owned land for developmental projects laid down in the LARR Act is too cumbersome and requires simplification.

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Situating Modinomics- Prashant Kulkarni ( Swarajya, 8 May 2015)

The 2014 verdict was understandably an endorsement of both the Hindu political right and the economic right as much as rejection of rampant crony socialism under the UPA. Expectedly, there was anticipation that Prime Minister Modi would summarily put in place the reform measures to stimulate the mired economic growth. Barring perhaps P.V. Narasimha Rao (circumstance-motivated) and A.B. Vajpayee (in part ideologically driven), no other Indian Prime Minister has been identified with the economic right as much as Modi.

Intriguingly, the bequest of past governments is defined by the scale of State involvement in the economy rather than the measure of State withdrawal. Implied in the verdict of 2014 was an increasing space for supply siders in the policy machinery. However, economic gestures originating from the government in the last 12 months perplex and mystify both friends and critics alike. Incontestably, the direction of reforms is unambiguous, yet the relatively leisurely tempo seems annoying. What is unanswered is this question: Can “Modinomics” be slotted in any particular economic school of thought?

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False economic assumptions (Tim Congdon, Prospect,May 1, 2015)

“Even most of those who had previously argued that monetary policy was the only appropriate counter-cyclical weapon in the policy-makers’ toolkit accepted in 2008-9 that a fiscal stimulus was necessary to prevent the economies of the United States and the United Kingdom spiralling from recession to depression.” So we are assured by Sir Howard Davies in his review in Prospect ofUniversal Man, the recent Keynes’ biography by Richard Davenport-Hines.

Really?

True, Keynesian remedies were articulated strongly at the G20 Washington summit in November 2008 and the G20 London summit in April 2009. But Davies’s limiting his reference only to the USA and UK speaks volumes. At the London summit Sarkozy and Merkel organised a separate press conference in which they repudiated further fiscal stimulus.
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Inequality and what can be done about it: an interview with Anthony Atkinson

Atkinson
As the economist Anthony Atkinson observes at the beginning of his new book, inequality is now at the “forefront of political debate.” But, he insisted when I met him in London a couple of weeks ago, “this isn’t a recent problem—it’s a change that has taken place over a generation in [the UK], and in the US, too.” Nor is this a new preoccupation for Atkinson. He has been thinking about the economics of inequality since he graduated as an economist in 1966.

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What’s distinctive about this book, “Inequality,” is captured by the question posed in its subtitle: “What can be done?” As well as diagnosing the problem of economic inequality (especially inequality of income)—showing why it matters in advanced societies (“It does matter that some people can buy tickets for space travel when others are queuing for food banks”) and how it has changed over time—Atkinson presents a series of concrete policy proposals for doing something about it. He has, he says, written this book in a “spirit of optimism.” There is, in his view, nothing inevitable about the levels of inequality seen today in countries like Britain—on the contrary. “The world faces great problems,” Atkinson writes, “but collectively we are not helpless in the face of forces outside our control.”

Twenty-odd years ago, Atkinson delivered an address to the Royal Economic Society entitled “Bringing Income Distribution in from the Cold.” In it, he noted the way that, for much of the 20th century, distributional questions had been largely ignored by the economics profession. Why, I asked Atkinson, does he think that happened?

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