Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate economist, on Indian situation

Speaking at a web conference hosted by business chamber FICCI, Joseph Stiglitz, the outspoken Nobel laureate economist suggested that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party must get rid of the politics of division as “the source of economic prosperity of the last 250 years is one of tolerance”.

“I will start by trying to create an inclusive society. Politics of division is an antithesis of what needs to be done. Modi has tried to divide your country, Moslems against Hindus, and that is going to undermine your society and economy no matter what else happens. This fundamental division will weaken India forever.” “That (religious divide) is the fundamental division that you have to get rid of.” “So if I were to say where to begin, I would say the politics of division, get rid of that,” he said when asked what India should do to prosper in a post- pandemic world.

According to Stiglitz, these “authoritarian regimes” failed (at controlling the pandemic) as they’ve usually tried to divide societies or shift the blame on another person; slightly than accepting faults. For occasion, within the US, President Donald Trump blamed China for the unfold of the virus; withdrew funding to WHO and so on. In India, PM Narendra Modi’s regime “has done the same” by pitching one faith in opposition to one other.

Bracketing India with Brazil and the United States for its “utter failure” to deal with Covid-19, Stiglitz described “India as a poster child of what not to do”, saying the lockdown failed to have any impact and the migrant labour crisis precipitated the contagion. “It (India) picked up one idea that is important. Lockdown. Did not think about what it means in a poor country. How are people going to live, large number of people moving across the country. One could not have imagined anything worse for spreading the disease,” he said. 

When asked what his advice would be to the India government, which has been a little circumspect in spending money to kick-start the economy because of fiscal concerns,

Stiglitz, the author of several celebrated books, including “Globalisation and its Discontent”, said the first option should be to print money as there is a compelling case to spend money. “If we don’t, there will be long term damage.  Companies that go bankrupt don’t go un-bankrupt in two years’ time,” he said.

“The first priority is to help the vulnerable but also contain the disease. Spending the money in a way that prevents contagion and also helps people gives double dividends. Let me say very clearly, you cannot control the economic aftermath if you cannot control the pandemic… Raise taxes on the very rich — you have a lot of billionaires in India — and spend the money well, it can stimulate the economy,” he argued.

Stiglitz additionally identified that within the present international order “no country can be fully self-reliant” with issues like uncooked supplies or expertise being imported. Such a pitch – in the direction of full self-reliance – is out of contact with the 21st century and is one thing one would count on from authoritarian regimes.  (newonnews dated 05-0-20 and The Telegraph 06-10-20)

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