New Paradigm For Development: Economic Growth And Social Wellbeing

Arun Maira, Author and Thought Leader, Former Member, Planning Commission and Former Chairman, Boston Consulting Group India, in conversation with Jeemol Unni on a new paradigm for development.

Abstract of the Conversation: GDP growth is a critical measure of economic performance. However, the single-minded pursuit of economic growth loses sight of the wider view of the wellbeing of the community. Growth needs to be inclusive, sustainable, and equitable. A booming economy for the few, while the many languish at the bottom of the pyramid, undermines the logic of development. Amidst this, the pandemic has further widened the chasm between the rich and the poor. We need a wider lens that transcends GDP: material growth and social wellbeing. 20th-century geopolitics had created a dichotomy, either an unbridled free-market economy or a centrally controlled socialist economy. In this century, we need to break free of this false binary. How do we ensure growth that benefits all stakeholders, not just shareholders? How do we move beyond economic reforms to social reforms? Which underlying ideas of capitalism need to evolve to ensure prosperity and welfare? Our speaker, a multifaceted leader who has donned various hats in the private sector and government, will challenge the current ideas of economic growth. He will present a multipronged approach to inclusive economic growth, tempered by ethics and wellbeing.

To listen to the entire conversation, please see YouTube link here.

To get a sense of the ideas discussed in the conversation, here are the questions that were posed.

  1. You led three rounds of participative and comprehensive scenario building for the future of India: in 1999 (with the Confederation of Indian Industry), 2005 (with the World Economic Forum), and 2011 (with the Planning Commission). What was the difference in the way these exercises were conducted by these very different organisations with very different focus? Was the scenario building different due to differing social economic environment during these times?
  2. You have written several books, mostly about expectation about the future shape that India, its economy and policy will take. How are your expectations different in your latest book A Billion Fireflies: Critical Conversations to Shape a New Post-Pandemic World? Are inclusiveness, social wellbeing and sustainability of growth greater concerns now?
  3. You expressed the view, in one of your articles in the Indian Express, that ‘Trade policy must be linked with foreign policy no doubt. However, foreign policy must be linked with industrial policy too; and, to complete the circle, trade policy must be linked with industrial policy’. Spoken like an economist actually. Where do you think we are now? Do we even have any of these policies in place and are they linked as you suggest? Who plans and who decides how the nation prospers?
  4. Policies in India have never really had a focus on employment and we continue with worrying about growth of GDP as though that would solve all our problems. In the Indian Express article you state, ‘The success of India’s industrial policy must be measured by the number and the spread of jobs created’. How do you propose India should go about this with its large share of informal and self-employed? Do you think the idea of capitalism itself should evolve to ensure employment and welfare of the people?
  5. If creation of employment is not a feasible option given the power structures, do you think a concept of Universal Basic Income will be a necessary? Is it really a feasible option in the long run?
  6. I listened to some of your conversations in other fora. There was this discussion on whether the country, and you personally as well, are a capitalist or a socialist. Is this discussion really relevant anymore?

To listen to the entire conversation and the questions posed by the audience, please see the link provided here again.

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