Missing the target in growth, welfare
With the GDP for fiscal year 2013 sinking to a 10-year low at five per cent, registering a puny 4.8 per cent for the fourth quarter from January- March, the UPA-II government has been handed a terrible report card showing glaring non-performance in most sectors, including driving its favourite pro-growth agenda. Although for some time now, the finance ministry under P Chidambaram, along with the Reserve Bank of India under the aegis of chief Duvvuri Subbarao, have been grappling with the problems of slowing growth, economic stagnation along with commensurate inflation, the five per cent growth rate, along with the sinking value of the national currency, are reminders that the government has been failing big time in delivering the targets at all levels. The unmanageable risks associated with relentless price-rise and the increasing current account deficit (CAD) have already pulled down the economic health, creating an ambience of gloom and low investment that propping up monetary policy artificially by adjusting repo rates and bank lending rates alone cannot solve. As Subbarao rightly suggests, the RBI cannot be expected to bail out the sagging finances of the nation by easing the monetary policy, if there’s no corresponding stepping up of public investment, spurring of growth by boosting infrastructure, taking the fruits of development to more and more people, rather than restricting the benefits to a limited few calling the shots. Unless easing of monetary policy is supplemented by efforts towards easing the supply bottlenecks, improving governance, alongside continuing commitment to fiscal consolidation, the much-cherished economic agenda of the government will remain the botched affair at best.
Despite its desperate pursuing of the economic reform agenda, the UPA-II government, now in its fifth year, has managed only to scrape through, while neglecting the hugely important social welfare policies. Though the UPA government doesn’t waste a single opportunity to showcase its ‘flagship’ programmes in terms of MGNREGA and RTI, as Aruna Roy’s recent statements prove, it has been stonewalling the pro-poor welfare schemes at the altar of big money and cold statistics, particularly the kind that is proffered in the offices of the Planning Commission. As Roy rightly suggests, while the UPA-I had allocated substantial time, energy and resources to the actual devising, strategising and bolstering of the social welfare schemes, the UPA-II has failed heavily in terms of groundwork and real implementation. Roy, who quit the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) in the light of the latter’s diminishing influence over the government policies, has pointed out the great and unfortunate discrepancy in ensuring the minimum wage to a worker under MGNREGA, wherein even the meager amount Rs 147 was not given to the labourer after the government went back on its own assurances and decided to appeal the high court orders of two states to grant the workers their only source of income. It is obvious that UPA-II has been a disaster, be it in implementing its own schemes, or ensuring security or safety of its citizens, whether in the cities or in the rural heartlands.