Saturday, April 11, 2009

My Path to Sustainable Development

While I love to say that I like to ramble, one of the aims of my blog has always been to stimulate discussion on the outlook towards right governance & appropriate political philosophy among like-minded folks. My youth was spent in concluding that the political class for the most part is useless & a government free of corruption is the solution to all ills. If you think that this seems to be another arrow in my quiver of incredibly botched logic, you are not wrong. Believe me, I have a great track record on this front.

My approach gradually changed over time. Gone was the idealism. In came an attempt to look at things in a more nuanced manner. A realization that all ills are not equal and that there is no silver bullet. That sustainable development involves doing several things simultaneously. And the conclusion that the solution does not have to be perfect the first time. What is needed is the will to make a difference. And the will to make a start - somewhere.

Not a day passes goes by without me thinking that a lot of us have been incredibly lucky. We have been provided good education, landed cushy jobs, and have advanced professionally, financially & personally. We are blessed with a wonderful support network of family & friends that help brighten & enrich our days. Though I have no objections to furthering our own personal cause, I believe it is also important that we take some time to think about the uplift of the fellow citizen. And his path towards development.

I am a die-hard capitalist. I believe in open markets and free trade. I cheer small government & low fiscal deficits. I espouse the cause of the private enterprise in finding meaningful solutions. I am to the “right of centre” when it comes to economic philosophy. At the same time, I do not believe that the government is the problem. Government has a role. To protect its citizens. Establish property rights. Define the rule of law & enforce it. In a country of 1.1 billion, this in itself is a large ask. Let the government truly do this well.

This might be inconsistent with my previous blog where I espouse sustainable bottom-up rural development. Not at all. I still believe that bottom-up development is the way to go. In a country as large as ours, it is unfair to say to 400+ million that the benefits of the economy will ‘trickle down’ to them in 10 years and that they have to patient until then. Try telling that to the family of a farmer who has committed suicide because his todays were becoming unmanageable. Try telling that to a new parent who knows that if the child does not get into school in 5 years, its future is compromised.

Where I differ from the socialists is that I do not think that bottom-up development has to be actively managed by the government. Let the government limit itself to setting goals and laying clear markers. Let it be a facilitator of finance when required. Let it be an enabler towards the definition of a measured framework. And importantly, let it enforce the rule of the law that preserves this structure.

The management of development must be in the hands of the individual or a group of individuals. They may decide that the solution to sustainable development may lead through cooperatives (think Amul). Or non-governmental organizations. Or include innovative approaches such as micro-finance (Grameen Bank, Kiva, SKS). Or involve the private sector (ITC e-choupal). The means do not matter as long as it is best left to the individuals to make that choice. In short, I call for an approach that provides the key to one’s destiny in one’s own hands. Self-confidence is a force multiplier.

What do you think? Is bottom-up approach to development that espouses free market principles and minimal-to-none government involvement the way to go? Or does the government have to play a role? Or do you believe that the top-down capitalist approach is the ideal choice? You know where I stand. I would love to hear your side of the story. Post a comment or send me a note.

1 comment:

Mahesh said...

I am really bitten by your posts with such a lucid language.It is very sad that i do not agree with you in entirety but in parts.Here is my post in response to yours.