Oxfam International – the international anti-poverty charity – in its report says that in 2015, just 62 persons had the same amount of wealth as 3.6 billion people across the world and that the gap between the haves and have-nots is steadily increasing. While the exact accuracy of this report may be somewhat disputed, the substance of the report is not disputed.
Inequality has been there and it has been increasing and most of us accept it as natural consequences of things. Or perhaps something which is difficult to stop or reverse.
This increasing inequality is horrendously cruel.
While many die in hunger and starvation, the rich & richer are able to throw away their wealth on wastage and ugly opulence.
This inequality needs to be combated and it is possible to do so in a practical and reasonable manner.
On one side is extreme privatization promoted by capitalists and on the other side lay extreme state monopoly advocated by communists. In between, however, there is space for public and private sector participation which would still place money in the hands of the government instead of all of it going to top business houses, which money would be possible to be put to the betterment of the deprived sections.
Maruti India had started out as a government-suzuki participation and did well. Why can’t such examples be increased ?
Such examples can be increased if the role and influence of the top Indian business houses is curtailed and restricted.
As is widely known; political parties, especially in democracies such as India, heavily rely on donations to meet particularly the election expenses. Large business houses donate regularly and heavily to prominent political parties. What happens then is that the political party coming into power at the centre is under pressure to return benefits to the large business houses and in many ways; it is the large business houses which have the better say in matters of economic decisions undertaken in the country.
Regulation of donations made by business houses to political parties therefore is a paramount need and needs to be implemented at the outset to keep such donations within reasonable limits and in a manner transparent so as to enable the public to judge the quid pro quo that may be happening in government economic decisions. Of course, regulation of donations to political parties – by helping to bring down election expenditures – should enable lesser corruption and arguably more suitable persons to enter the political field.
To reiterate, therefore, public private partnerships are possible to be increased and should be increased to divert money to government hands instead of going all to large business houses. This is possible to be done. The story of Maruti India, which for much of its history was a govt-private venture, already demonstrates this.
But in order to enable increasing govt-private ventures instead of fully private owned ventures; the role and influence of large business houses, as in the manner above noted, needs to be pushed back as much as possible. And towards this pushing back, sound regulation of donations to political parties needs to be implemented. This would help reduce considerably the influence the large business houses have on government and would allow room for government economic decisions to be more meritorious and objective.
The influence that large business houses have on political parties and governments is not really appreciated. But a little thought would show that the increasingly huge amounts of expenditure incurred on elections by political parties requires huge, huge amount of money; towards which donations from large business houses or business houses in general is absolutely critical. And given the criticality of the same; return favours by the government to large business houses turns out to be a near must; increasing thereby the usurpation by large business houses of remunerative business and economic activities.
Undoubtedly, there has been push and pull by private business to steer the road much more towards total privatisation rather than any middle road of public-private participation. This increasing total privatisation is turning out to be harmful not only from the point of view of increasing inequality but also from the point of view of wholly dangerous power that it gives to large business houses.
As said, it is not that public-private partnerships are not viable and feasible as the history of Maruti India shows. With some will and effort, there can be increasing government participation in undertaking business and manufacturing activity with reasonable results. Such participation is advised not only from the point of view of reducing the increasingly larger flow of earnings to top business houses, but also to utilise the money that consequently comes into government funds towards bettering the lives of the not so privileged. Overall, growing inequality shall have a worthwhile front opened against it.
By Sanjay Kumar Singh at indiaopines blogs
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