STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
Bhubaneswar, 14 July
Poverty cannot be eradicated by subsidies or gifting freebies while good governance, capacity building and a judicious balance between a growth rate dominated model and welfare schemes approach is the answer to poverty alleviation, opined eminent economists here today.
Chief Secretary Jugal Kishore Mahapatra who has strongly advocated public investment during times of economic recession, emphasised the marriage of two most debated approaches ~ ensure growth and it will take care of the rest, secondly initiate welfare measures which will result in inclusive growth.
He also spoke on rural poverty and the need to increase agricultural production.
Participating in a discussion on poverty alleviation organised to mark the release of a book written by former finance minister Mr Panchanan Kanungo, several economists like Professor Baidyanath Mishra, public finance expert and former MP Trilochan Kanungo, former chief secretary Mr S B Mishra and others analysed the current scenario in the backdrop of the Food Security Bill.
Prof. Mishra said the problem lies in defining poverty. It is extremely difficult to define poverty ~ calory intake plus access to education, healthcare are considered in searching for a formula which is elusive because there is no limit to basic needs of a human being, he said.
“Despite high GDP growth, poverty and hunger in India has been on the rise. The global hunger index shows this trend. At the same time we have been substantially increasing the subsidy and it is now over Rs 2 lakh crore and the danger is that this increase marks a commensurate rise in leakages, thus, the benefit does not reach the poor,” he said.He emphasised the need to create assets and build capabilities. He regretted that agriculture sector has been neglected and people engaged in agriculture has reduced to less than 50 percent from 80 percent. Increasing unemployment has led to what is now called “Jobless growth” he remarked.
Former secretary Mr Mishra said a new class has emerged which lives on public money, he remarked while referring to the joke that many of those driving bikes in rural areas are doing so on MGNREGA while most of the SUV&’s in urban areas comes from chit fund money. Doles and freebies is the political strategy adopted by parties and this is not conducive to economic growth nor is it an answer to poverty alleviation, he said.
Widely acclaimed public finance expert Trilochan Kunungo said the simplest way to identify the poor is to go by the per capita income norm. It is accepted that any family earning less than 6.25 dollars a day ought to be enlisted as poor.
He lamented the skewed priorities of the government, surplus money is spent on distributing mobile phones and other such articles when it should be meant for productive use. The remedy lies in increasing production, ensuring good governance and providing employment with more emoluments, he said.
The author of the book and former finance minister Panchanan Kanungo implored upon the gathering to read, react and write to him on his analysis of poverty and poverty alleviation measures.