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Monday, August 15, 2011

Independence Day - More hopeful than happy?

As our corruption friendly Dr. Singh (irony - you cannot call him corrupt yet) would unfurl our national flag and deliver the speech today for the 8th time, everyone is wondering what the speech would contain specifically in terms of corruption management.

Though contentious I maintain that this time our Independence day gives me more hope than happiness. It's not "scam a day" that has been breaking was a dampener but the way we reacted for the last 3 years and how we are trying hard and misgovern ourselves to the brink.

Some thoughts on this issue are as follows:

1. UPA tends to boast that the growth for the last few years has been closer 9% and the highest ever by any government.

I agree but just wanted to highlight this fact that growth is given in India as a factor of life during this period. Let's instal president's rule for 5 years and see what's the growth. We would still have a growth % closer to this sans the stupid political issues. This is agood smoke screen to hide behind. 

2. Lok Pal bill and Anna's campaign is unconstitutional.

Experts say that the Indian constitution has been changed / fine tuned many times over. (Heard it is 150+ times since independence) When the Kashmiri interlocutors can suggest that Indian constitution should be changed to solve Kashmiri issue, which is tacitly accepted by this government, why can't this be changed for the better.... For addressing the corruption issue.

3. Anna's movement is undemocratic.

Not sure what else could be called democratic. When people assemble for the protests leaving back their daily business (in many case their livelihood for the day), when people gather without any daily incentive for attending meetings (very unlike political meetings), when people fast for many days without any compulsion, when people brave bad weather and risk of injury during gatherings. When they come around with their families to protest, when things are completely ground up... It's participative democracy and nothing else.

4. Lok pal bill alone cannot stop corruption.

Among the reasons this seems to be most valid. Agreed that this is not the sufficient condition but a very necessary condition which is hidden in that statement. If an ineffective law is not be enacted then how will we know that the law is ineffective even before implementing. Also if currently ineffective laws have to be repealed then tell me which of our laws would stand the test in India today. Take the simplest of the laws ~ traffic laws. One of the most ineffective laws can this be repealed? Unfortunately our media also does not want to ask difficult questions about the key people at high levels who are behind corruption. We are in a media frenzy where the energy is spent on catching  low hanging fruits like Raja and Kalmadi.

5. This government talks about programs like NREGA where close to 70000 cr are being spent.

Many studies have been conducted that out of every one rupee spent by government only 5 to 15 paise or even less reaches the poor. Even I assume it's 15% only should we appreciate the government for a 10000 cr effective program or a charge them with a 60000 cr loot.

6. Fiscal deficit, growth and inflation.

Our debt to GDP ratio is over 70% which is as close as some of the developed economies which are considered broke or almost broke now. Despite this, most of our eminent economists are saying that we can afford this fiscal situation because we are growing at 8%+. The fact which i wanted to highlight based on this growth argument is Greece. Greece was the fastest growing economy last decade in Europe but is financially broke now. Few economists from Greece should have also thought that the fiscal situation is OK as long as there is growth like we do now. But growth can reverse in a small period of time not leaving enough time to repay our debts. Here i see we are blindly walking down that path and would be one of the economies in the near future where we invite another 1991 situation upon us. 

I think we need to overcome 3 barriers....

1. Priority barrier:
I believe we have got our priority wrong. The order of priority should be:

a. Governance reforms (not on policy and investment reforms as popularly understood). This includes judicial reforms, political criminal nexus mitigation and obviously an independent authority for oversight. If the last one is about Lok Pal then it is independent Lok Pal. Please note that our growth %s did not increase till we had an independent election authority - this is a factor not highlighted enough. 

b. Security reforms - Be it Maoist, terrorist, naxalites or a petty thief - we need a sense of security. Today this does not exist and there are too many areas to tie up here.

c. Third comes investment reforms. Putting this ahead of the other two is not only inefficient but also self serving for those who benefit from bad governance.

2. The conflict of the interest barrier
Conflict of interest between people who create governance reforms and the ones who benefit from misgovernment is very strong and obviously the fruits of  bad governance are sweet for them, keeps them going in their political life and more importantly the deterrents are not very strong.

3. Lack of will as a barrier
If there is a strong will then there is a way. But its lack of will that creates an impasse on the bill. Our governments response seems to be on a familiar line "Ignore - Denial - Discredit - Delay - Disrupt - Be forced - Try to take credit for the outcome". I wish they change the strategy - be less defensive and develop the will. Some say that this is the first barrier to be broken.

With these mixed emotions I am not happy today for what we are today considering where we could have been. Yet I am very hopeful of our country and our future not because that our political parties can get their act right but as a country we have seen many ups and downs and have a past of coming out of successfully. This time the issues are created by ourselves not by someone from outside and i am hopeful of the past repeating itself.

I wanted to list 2 of the Thirukural that is very apt for the day:

வேலன்று வென்றி தருவது மன்னவன் 
கோல தூ உங் கோடா தெனின்.

This essentially means that king's armor (can be added as military or police might) cannot help him endure success to his might but only because of his lawful reign. We are seeing this happening in many places across the world that when people rise because of dissolution against the monarch none of the forces can stop them.

அல்லற்பட்டு ஆற்றாது அழுத கண்ணீரன்றே
செல்வத்தை தேய்க்கும் படை.
The tears of the citizens of the country enduring woes (because of  bad governance) shall wear / file away that reins prosperity and influence. This means that the army of tears is stronger than  anything else. 

So here i am wishing all a very hopeful Independence day and a happier future.

Yours hopefully!