Bangalore International Centre had arranged a panel discussion on “Economy for The One Percent” on Thursday, 19th January, 2017 at 6.30 PM at its Auditorium. The panellists present were Dr. Nisha Agrawal, Prof. Gita Sen and Prof. Arjun Jayadeva. The discussion was chaired and moderated by Dr. Narendar Pani.
In a thought-provoking and well-researched discussion, the panellists analysed the growing inequity and inequality around the world and drew specific attention to the striking similarity of this phenomenon in our country.
Dr. Nisha Agrawal (Oxfam, India) mentioned that research studies done by Oxfam indicate that just eight men own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world. In fact, the studies reveal that the richest 1% owned more than the rest of the planet in 2015. Left unchecked, this growing inequality would usher in an era of societies pulling apart.
Prof. Arjun Jayadeva analysed the historical process of this development and felt that this has been largely due to the declining share of manufacture in the over-all scheme of growth of wealth and the aberrations in the sphere of public policy which assisted such type of lob-sided growth.
Prof. Gita Sen drew pointed attention to the fact that in recent years there is a growing tendency to withdraw interventions by the state from areas of such vital importance like health and education and women and child development. She regretted that the government was virtually withdrawing from NAREGA – a scheme which has been a game-changer in the area of generating rural employment.
All the panellists agreed that the process of policy formulation, as is in vogue currently, is basically flawed because of the total lack of effective public participation. As a result, not only is the perspective skewed, but there is a total lack of imagination and vision to envisage how the growth could be more egalitarian and more equitable. However, they agreed that this gloomy picture need not be for ever and felt that a better, well-informed citizenry can be the change-agents in bringing about both structural and transformational changes.
Dr. Narendar Pani, in his erudite observations, stressed that the growth in wealth does not necessarily lead to reduction in the poverty-level through the much-touted “trickle down” effect.
The audience in the interactive session was broadly supportive of the analysis and the suggestions of the panellists. There were a few dissenting voices to the suggestions made by Dr. Nisha Agrawal to reintroduce Inheritance Tax, and raise the Wealth Tax, so that public expenditure on Education and Health can be enhanced. They pointed out that such measures were tried out earlier without any tangible result. The panellists however pointed out that the earlier poor results in these areas were ore due to opaqueness of the governance pattern and almost complete absence of public accountability.