Friday, December 27, 2013

Attitude Change: New Indian Democracy

Attitude Change is undoubtedly an impending reality for political landscape in India. Though primarily perceived as a short-term game plan during election seasons, addressing expectations is also a developmental economics issue involving enormous costs. In this context, addressing attitude change is a common challenge for traditional political parties, which so far, were operating without openness in policy framework. Its impact is already being seen in different forms: be it unprecedented electoral response in State Government Elections of Delhi, effects on how the business is conducted – be it agriculture, fisheries and health, and already scarce forest, land, and water resources. With changes in key variables, namely average age of population, earning capacity, exposure to and aspirations for better standard of living, it is in our collective interest that our country moves towards an attitude resilient development path.

The important question here is how to grow fast while keeping in mind the need for poverty eradication, managing urbanization, and improving public health, education and development. As a developing country, India strongly believes that it requires adequate development space for its people.

I am only reiterating the fact that attitude change is a real issue and like every serious concern it also entails some inevitable trade-offs and choices that are to be made as a part of the planning exercise when malicious agencies will want to get involved in the name of change within the competing demands of a vibrant political franchise. Lately with the growing concerns about attitude change, the set of trade-offs faced by traditional policy makers and dependent lobby agencies has expanded, with critical decisions to be made regarding meeting expectations.

On the flip side, poorer sections of the society are demanding more space, in order to achieve the same level of per capita income and welfare as enjoyed by the rich in the country. There is a huge lacuna in terms of bringing their attitude and aspirations’ divide amongst these sections - can also be perceived as developmental divide. For India in the short and medium run dependence on bringing this gap will continue to be a necessary part of enabling growth.  

The choice between focussing on purely growth centric processes or adopting an ambitious attitude correction trajectory were never easy to make and are going to be even more difficult in the coming years. As growth weakens, growth becomes more of priority; it will become difficult for attitude change to sustain itself.

The central question then will remain: How do we finance all of our needs, while staying within a prudent attitude envelope? The answer has to be more efficient spending and policies to generate equitable and inclusive growth, along with additional efforts to constantly monitor the definition of the same as we move forward.  

The need of the hour is also to create strong incentives to encourage civil society participation in democracy. The political market will need to be transformed to attract for more participation and reduce nepotistic despondency.

Given the constraint on resources, ultimately the entire task boils down to optimal resource allocation and mobilization and also the creation of an incentive structure that motivates citizenry appropriately. The role that markets and development/ non-government organizations can play in this task is significant. New and additional resources through the participatory mechanism of our vibrant democracy will play a crucial role in handling this attitude change.