29/02/08

more socialist than the swedes

prof. gadde swarup directed my attention to this post, which talked about why the delivery of public services, like education and healthcare, is so poor in india:
First, especially compared with Bangladesh, India is an extremely heterogeneous society, with many castes, ethnic groups, languages and religions. There is some evidence that polarized societies find it more difficult to build political support for public goods. Second, to the extent that these services are transactions-intensive (a teacher has to spend time with students, doctors with patients), caste or other differences may stand in the way of publicly-provided services working for some people. Low-caste people, for instance, have been excluded from some public schools and public clinics. They are able to obtain services in the private sector—because they pay for these services. Paradoxically, therefore, the fact that the Indian government mandated free and universal public education and health, and decided to finance and provide it from the public sector, may be the reason poor people are largely obtaining these services in the private sector.
i've talked about this issue in too many posts: blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah etc., and blah, blah, blah, and blah and..here's the gist of most of the arguments made in those posts:

* the welfare government of india focusses more on equalizing outcomes than opportunities and fails miserably on both counts,
* the brunt of this failure is borne more by the lower castes and other marginalized sections of indian society- more parliamentary time is spent on discussing issues related to the pay and pensions of the 33 lakh strong central government staff and on whether the goi should disinvest its holdings in the public sector insurance/telecom/airline/hotel businesses to the extent of 75% or 49% than on the miserable conditions of public schools in which more than a 100 million children from the lowest strata of indian society study,
* if the government wishes to improve the opportunity structure, at least, for the lower castes in this country it needs to focus more, much more undivided attention on the school education, healthcare and other factors that impact human development of these sections,
* and this can only happen if it sheds a lot of excess baggage it has gathered over the years, in terms of policies and implementation machinery- education, healthcare, rural infrastructure and justice should be four of the most important priorities of the goi out of a total of ten, and not four also-important-goals out of a hundred other priority areas,
* and it has to do this on its own because # the market can't deliver education to most of the lower castes because they don't constitute a market, # it's its primary job to build a nation of citizens with equal access to opportunities.

you might wonder- what excess baggage? i'm talking about the idelogical baggage that dictates that the government should govern most aspects of economic and social life in the country. and the huge multi-headed, many armed people and policy apparatus built in mindless pursuit of that goal.

inspired by a blogger who every once in a while points out how the socialist government of sweden takes more care of the welfare of its citizens than neo-liberal india, i've devised this crude graphic presentation to point out how much more socialist the government of india is than the government of sweden:

here's the swedish government (list of its ministries- from the wikipedia):

* Ministry of Justice
* Ministry for Foreign Affairs
* Ministry of Defence
* Ministry of Health and Social Affairs
* Ministry of Finance
* Ministry of Education and Research
* Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries
* Ministry of the Environment
* Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications
* Ministry of Integration and Gender Equality
* Ministry of Culture
* Ministry of Employment

here's the indian central government (again from the wikipedia):

# Ministry of Agriculture
# Ministry of Agro and Rural Industries
# Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers
# Ministry of Civil Aviation
# Ministry of Coal
# Ministry of Commerce and Industry
# Ministry of Communications and Information Technology
# Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
# Ministry of Corporate Affairs
# Ministry of Culture
# Ministry of Defence
# Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region
# Ministry of Earth Sciences
# Ministry of Environment and Forests
# Ministry of External Affairs
# Ministry of Finance
# Ministry of Food Processing Industries
# Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
# Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
# Ministry of Home Affairs
# Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation
# Ministry of Human Resource Development
# Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
# Ministry of Labour and Employment
# Ministry of Law and Justice
# Ministry of Mines
# Ministry of Minority Affairs
# Ministry of New and Renewable Energy
# Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs
# Ministry of Panchayati Raj
# Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs
# Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions
# Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas
# Ministry of Power
# Ministry of Railways
# Ministry of Rural Development
# Ministry of Science and Technology
# Ministry of Shipping, Road Transport and Highways
# Ministry of Small Scale Industries
# Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
# Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation
# Ministry of Steel
# Ministry of Textiles
# Ministry of Tourism
# Ministry of Tribal Affairs
# Ministry of Urban Development
# Ministry of Water Resources
# Ministry of Women and Child Development
# Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports

the ministries marked in red (in the indian list) are common to both governments, nominally. sweden has twelve ministries, apart from the prime minister's office... india has so many more socialistic arms! and there are also ministers of state and deputy ministers etc., does more socialism deliver more welfare?

1 comment:

Random African said...

"socialist" can mean so many things..

Just looking at the number of ministers doesn't directly indicate anything. the Indian Ministry of Small Scale Industries exists in Sweden, but it's a department in I guess the ministry of Entreprise. Similarly, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation is a department of the Ministry of Social Affairs. Similar things can be said about (almost) all of the Indian ministries.
And I bet Sweden has more civil servants per capita and may spend more on paying them as a percentage of GDP than India does.

Yet, there is a problem. The issue may be that multiplying ministries may divert away funds from where they're needed the most: local "technical" staff and of course services provided.

There is also coordination and flexibility issues and all sorts of problems with technocratic competition between departments being replaced by competition between policians (ministers).

All in all, streamlining social policies and public goods provision is a good idea. But i'm not sure "socialist" is the word you want to use.

 
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