Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Interview with Dr. Amartya Sen

DR. AMARTYA SEN.  Excellent exchange of views and ideas. Few Exerpts.

ON MANMOHAN SINGH
Well you know, how much a Prime Minister can do in a democratic system is of course determined by the forces with which he has to reckon. About Manmohan Singh, what advice I would give... to restore his image, I don't think, having known Manmohan Singh for a very long time, he would be worried about restoring his image. I mean, he's a very fine economist, of course you would like that reputation to remain which has remained. If there's any question it is if he's a great political figure or not.  And I think he has certainly been, if you think about what he has achieved, is enormous amounts, doing many things, if you think about it. Not only the fastest period of...longest period of Indian growth has been under his prime ministership.

ON INDIAN POLITICS AT PRESENT
I think what we have to look at is not so much his image because I think that's not what he will be mainly concerned with but whether he is doing well for the country and for that yes, there are things to do. You have to mobilise the political system .Because you know, democracy is meant to be governed by discussion. Instead of that what we've ended up in India is government by pressure groups. And the pressure groups are very strong. When Manmohan tries to do something on employment or making food cheaper for very poor, people immediately jump at the idea and say you are fiscally irresponsible.

ON UNDERACHIEVER TAG TO THE PRIME MINISTER
But you know, I think I have always been saying this is the Indian colonialism. If one American magazine calls him "underachiever" then all of India is calling him "underachiever". I think we should not attach that much importance to it.

ABOUT HAZARE & COMPANY
But I believe that their reading of corruption or what causes corruption or how it can removed is wrong there. We have to look at how the economic system operates. I have a lot of sympathy for him. I am not lacking sympathy for getting absolutely maddeningly angry about the extent of corruption.

ON THE ARGUEMENT THAT WEFARISM IS RUINING INDIA
Like feeding kids is fiscally irresponsible! Giving subsidy to diesel fiscally irresponsible even though subsidy to diesel absorbs much more money than feeding kids. That argument that welfare is killing India is one of the extraordinary things. It's one of the wonders of Indian media that Indian media has already decided Indian growth has already slowed down because of food subsidies, because it hasn't even begun! But the fact that people could think that it would be a terrible thing to do and not worry about those things is because the middle classes which control the media: "It doesn't matter, those things could continue! My God, if you could kill welfarism we can have huge rate of growth!"

ON MIDDLE CLASS WORRY ABOUT WELFARISM
I don't like using an expression of that kind. But it is certainly middle class bias. Because their kids are not unfed. People sometimes ask, why is it that people cry about inflation, why is it so big a political issue? That is partly because those who are vocal are seeing their income rise along with price rise, they're doing fine. But they don't need to worry. There are housewives whose income hasn't changed, whose allocation of budget for bazaar haven't changed. But the prices of food have gone up. They have to cry but they haven't got the voice.

ON SLOWDOWN, DOOM and GOOM OF ECONOMY
But I think if they put it in perspective: India is still the second fastest growing economy in the world... largest economy in the world. Its gap with China is much the same. China has taken the big dip too as India. After the dip, India is still about 6- 6.5 per cent if they're just one quarter, that is 5.3 but overall for the 6.5.. There have been previous quarters where they have been even lower than this number. But some countries like Brazil have gone from 7 or 8 per cent to 0.8 per cent.

ON FUTURE REFORMS AND FDI
I'm in favour of reforms, I want much more reforms of this kind. But I don't have a particular pre-assigned belief that FDI in every field is that right thing. Nor do I have a belief that's it's a wrong thing. We have to see the result. It will bring investment, that is good. It will cut out jobs for many. Small jobs will be cut out by the large corporations. That is a bad thing. So you have to balance these.  If you convert all these into a slogan (and I'm glad you raised the issue of slogans) then you miss out the thing. In each case, we have to judge. FDI cannot be intrinsically good or bad, we have to see what does it actually do. For that, we need an analysis in each case.

Wonderful Dr. Sen I am a big fan of yours.

(From CNN-IBN interview with Sagarika Ghosh)

 

No comments:

Post a Comment