Assembly Polls 2021 in India and Relevance of Economic Development
In general elections or state assembly elections, economic development issues are rarely discussed by contesting parties. Sometimes, references are made in manifestoes and most often such documents are not fully read or analysed by the common man. Therefore it was entirely surprising when Shri Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala Chief Minister challenged the opposition through the social media about what they had done for the development of the state. “We are in the last leg of election campaigning. Kerala wants to know if the opposition is willing to discuss development and welfare, if they would dare compare their performance in 2011-16 with that of ours over the last 5 years?”
Just days ahead of the polls, both ruling and opposition fronts have started doling out some data on building of roads, bridges, flyovers, schools and so on. Such comparisons made in the heat of electioneering may not help voters or anyone interested to what is economic development.
Perhaps, this is the right opportunity to discuss what is economic development? Economic growth and development are key topics of study in undergraduate, post graduate courses and research studies in Economics. Volumes have been written about it and there are many like Jagadish Bhagawati who has extensively analysed the economic growth and development of under developed nations and why they lag behind.
Quantitative and Qualitative
In simple terms economic growth is about numbers – or quantitative. So more investments either by private or public sector in industries, services and agriculture should generate growth. But will that bring development? It is analogous to a child who is fed properly for three times a day which will result in his physical growth but intellectual and social growth will happen only through education, sports, art or physical activities and social relationships. In short, that is the becoming of a true citizen. That is the qualitative part of human growth and development.
Amartya Sen has argued that economic opportunities, political freedoms, social facilities, transparency guarantees and protective security are major factors that help in development while Prof Jagadish Bhagawati has argued for economic growth which may increase inequalities in the beginning but put enough resources in the hands of government to redistribute and implement welfare projects.
Economic development is indeed a broad term as will be evident from the several research studies done on the topic. Infrastructure such as airports, hospitals, logistics, skill development and affordability of services such as Information Communication Technology (ICT) also plays a part in economic development. Other measures such anti-pollution and corruption, care for the elderly, promoting entrepreneurship, good governance also add to economic development.
Once the election rhetoric is over and the new governments come to power and schools reopen, students can be initiated into economic growth and development learning through field trips and assessment of Human Development Index (HDI) of UN Development Programme. It looks comprehensively at health, education, social infrastructure and standard of living. Teachers may orient students showing aptitude in economics to probe deeper into development issues and inviting economists to talk to them. Why is India ranked 131 in HDI? Is the entire country backward in HDI or are there some states doing better than others? (Stake holders in education-teachers, institutional heads and economists are invited to share their views to firstname.lastname@example.org)