Jagdish Bhagwati in the Business Standard: The Bhagwati-Sen Debate: An Epitaph
While I was among the intellectual pioneers of the Track I reforms that transformed our economy and reduced poverty, and witness to that is provided by the Prime Minister’s many pronouncements and by noted economists like Deena Khatkhate, I believe no one has accused Mr. Sen of being the intellectual father of these reforms. So, the fact is that this huge event in the economic life of India passed him by.
Mr. Sen would like us to believe that Track II expenditures at the outset would have reduced poverty and even produced growth. But beyond assertions, he has no convincing argument on his side. As I (and Professor Panagariya) argue, India had too few rich and too many poor. Redistribution (i.e. taking moneys from the rich and distributing it to the poor) would have increased their well-being only marginally. Growth had to come first, then “redistribution” from the enhanced revenues unless God was to drop manna from heaven! Mr. Sen lives in a world of illusion.
Read the full piece at the Business Standard: The Bhagwati-Sen Debate: An Epitaph
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In the Business Standard, Mihir Sharma goes to the heart of the matter as to why minor disagreements between Jagdish Bhagwati and Amartya Sen "have amplified into a shouting match — well, a one-way shouting match, with Bhagwati repeatedly attacking Sen in public and in print, and Sen expounding on his point through interviews and op-eds, largely without mentioning Bhagwati or his views." Sharma argues that the real difference between them is merely a difference in emphasis, and then comes to the real reason behind the recent fuss:
As I said: duelling books; people who don’t bother to read the duelling books but instead read headlines written by journalists who haven’t bothered to read the duelling books, or only partially understood these, and the eternal quest in the Indian media to make absolutely everything relate to Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi.
Read the full piece which offers a dummy's guide to the latest brouhaha, with seven things you should know in the Bhagwati vs Sen slugfest: Bhagwati versus Sen: What's going on?
In the same newspaper, Rupa Subramanya invokes the Hayek-Keynes duel in the US in 1932 and concludes, perhaps a bit too optimistically:
One thing is for sure as a young Indian, this is the first time that economic policy debates between two great economic thinkers have been at the forefront of public discourse in India. Whether we like it or not, it’s shaping up as a battle of ideas between those who see themselves more on the right versus those who see themselves on the left. Ideologically driven debates seem to have finally arrived in India. It's just that not all of our politicians have yet figured that out.
Read the full piece: Bhagwati versus Sen: Slugfest or policy change agent?
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For background articles referenced in Sharma's articles:
Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express, last week:
Dear Mr Gandhi: The elections in Uttar Pradesh are, understandably, your major preoccupation. It is difficult to predict the result. But even if you do well, will India have reason to celebrate? Electoral success will show that you are better than the opposition. But that bar is now so low that it is almost an embarrassment to trumpet that one is merely better than the opposition. In 2009, the Congress got as propitious a mandate as any party could have expected. There was hope and expectation. The opposition, both on the left and right, was decimated. But what did India gain? It frittered away the good times. Instead of using growth to lay a secure foundation for the future, and create conditions where the scourge of poverty can be removed, we undermined the prospects for growth. We have high inflation, worrying public debt, slowing growth, uncertain currency prospects, falling investment, crushing interest rates...
Your party may not have some of the worst, exclusivist tendencies of your rivals. But you have not found ways of transcending the traps of identity politics that have kept India small...
Your party is trapped in two illusions. First, governance and politics are different issues. Second, only those policies that specifically address poor people affect the poor. You wreck the macro-economy in the name of the poor, and then cheat the poor because you refuse to govern...
Read the full piece at the Indian Express: Tomorrow's Battles
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Bhaskar Dutta in the Telegraph revisits the growth-equity debate:
What should be the proper sequence of reforms of the economy? Should the government proceed full speed ahead and complete the unfinished reform agenda of the 1990s? Or should it press the pause button on the reform process and focus instead on distributional measures to promote health, education and food security so as to achieve “growth with a human face”?
This debate has become topical once again, largely because of the recent Hiren Mukherjee Memorial Lecture delivered in Parliament by Jagdish Bhagwati.
Read on at the Telegraph
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