Location: Sarfuddinpur, Bihar
In June this year, I was in Sarfuddinpur, a village in Muzaffarpur district in north-central Bihar. This was my tenth round of qualitative data collection in this village and I wanted to document the stories of a few Self-Help Group, or SHG, leaders; Shakuntala Devi was one of them. I first observed her presiding over an SHG meeting under the village peepal tree in July 2013. She was expertly facilitating a discussion with other SHG members around loans, but also around child health issues and the challenges faced by women in the marketplace. She disciplined free riders and rewarded contributors with a respected leader’s ease. Since then, I have seen her conduct many other meetings.
Revised excerpts from the 16th JRD Tata lecture, delivered in New Delhi, 19 August 2013.
This is a difficult time for the Indian economy. Growth has slowed, with industry shrinking over the last two successive months, wholesale price inflation has risen to 5.8%, and the rupee has been losing value sharply. There is reason to be upset about this and to demand more from policy makers. Yet, as I argue in this lecture, this is not India's biggest problem. The nation's biggest challenge at this critical juncture is a moral and an ethical one. This, for India, is a moment of moral churning. Skullduggery and corruption, cutting across party lines, have been rampant, eating into the moral fabric of the nation, leaving ordinary people befuddled and in despair. This is breeding a corrosive cynicism, leading people to believe that maybe this is the only way to be, that petty corruption and harassment is simply the new normal, whereby we should complain when we are left out of the gravy train and merrily join in if and when we get a foothold on that train. Yes, the economy has not done well over the last year or two. But once we look beyond the proximate causes we will realize that one important factor for the economy not doing well is the corrosion of values like trust and trustworthiness and their concomitant, poor governance.
In the last five years, higher food prices have provoked government interventions in agricultural markets across the globe, often in the name of protecting the poor. But do higher food prices actually hurt the rural poor?
There’s nothing quite like a cold shower of shocking statistics to get you thinking. A paper that came out in Health Affairs today, written by my colleague Jishnu Das and his collaborators, is just such a cold shower.
Das and his colleagues spent 150 hours training each of 22 Indians to be credible fake patients. These actors were then sent into the consulting rooms of 305 medical providers – some in rural Madhya Pradesh (MP), others in urban Delhi – to allow the study team to assess the quality of care that the providers were delivering.
A lot of thought went into just what conditions the fake patients should pretend to have. The team wanted the conditions to be common, and to be ones that had established medical protocols with government-provided treatment checklists. The fake patients shouldn’t be subjected to invasive exams, and they needed to be able to be able to credibly describe invisible symptoms.
Following is the trancscript of Kaushik Basu's interview with CNBC-TV18, India, which first appeared on www.moneycontrol.com.
In an interview to CNBC-TV18, Kaushik Basu, chief economist, World Bank said the growth situation has to be taken seriously. "I do believe that, for India, there has to be all focus on growth."
Despite the fact that compared to the rest of the world, India is doing well, he said, it has the potential to get right back to 8.5 percent growth. "We have to put all hands on growth and try to get it back again up as quickly as possible," he added.
Q: You have been appointed as World Bank’s chief economist. So, the view from the inside has now changed to the view from the outside, has not it?
A: A little bit. Three months ago, I moved from the heart of Indian policymaking to seeing it from outside.
The role of the Indian government in helping foster the success of India’s IT industry is a point I disagree with Kalpana Kochhar about. Kalpana, World Bank regional Chief Economist for South Asia, posted a comment disagreeing with my views on the subject on ‘Africa Can Reduce Poverty’. Following is my counterpoint to her:
India experienced sustained economic growth for more than two decades following the economic liberalization in 1991. While economic growth reduced poverty significantly, it was also associated with an increase in inequality. Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen (2011) argue that Indian economic reform has been “unprecedented success” in terms of economic growth, but an “extraordinary failure” when it comes to improvements in the living standard of general population and social indicators. The contrasting news reports on billion dollar house (Mukesh Ambani’s house at Mumbai) and farmers’ suicides have brought the issue of income inequality to the spotlight for many people. Does the increase in inequality in post-reform India reflect deep-seated inequality of opportunity or efficient incentive structure in a market oriented economy?