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On a visit to the Yojana Bhawan, Unreal Times correspondent Chatur Nath slipped into the building’s brand new bathroom cum toilet complex to check it out. As he stood admiring the sprawling jacuzzi, his eyes suddenly fell on a piece of paper nearby. Turns out, the paper was a draft of Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s keynote address to the Wharton India Economic Forum. Chatur hurried back to our office, so that we could present it to our readers:
Good Morning everyone,
Thank you for inviting me to this prestigious event.
Let me start off by saying a line that is very close to my heart and also that of our PM. India has all the requirements to return to 8 percent in the coming years. There, I said it. I am sure all of you feel reassured. Now I can’t tell you when those years will come – may be in the next couple of years or the next decade or next century. I can’t even tell how that will happen because we are a democracy and it is almost impossible to predict anything in a democracy. Even more so in a democracy like India that legitimizes autocracy and inspires sycophancy. Sycophancy se yaad aaya, I would like to say it clearly that Rahul Gandhi has all the qualifications to become the Prime Minister of India or anything he wants.
Our rural employment programme, NREGA, is the world’s greatest ever employment generation scheme since World War II. The beauty of NREGA is that it is a non asset generation scheme. It is important for an accountable democracy with hawkish CAGs to come up with such visionary unaccountable schemes. Since our CAG is a sucker for performance audits, it is important to keep KPIs (key performance indicators) out. That is the beauty and the vision of this NREGA scheme. Since no assets are created, CAG cannot estimate if the money was spent for the intended purpose. All he can do is check if workers are being paid which can always be blamed on inefficient local administration.
Now some economists might tell you that growth is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for poverty reduction and human development. But our government in India believes in ‘Inclusive Development’. If that means sacrificing growth by focusing on redistribution for the sake of redistribution, then so be it. Some of you smart people might say that India is too populous and not rich enough for redistribution to work without growth. I would like to remind these skeptics what the charismatic leader Rahul Gandhi had said – “sarkar ke paas bahut paisa hai”. So, don’t worry about the money. Now some states in India boast of high growth but their development is not inclusive as is ascertained by Amba Pamba Lomba – a community of Indian-born English literature professors all over the world.
One of the major worries for our economy is that the investment rate is going down. Everyone says India needs to become more investor friendly, but I am afraid I do not share their concern. I would say that the investors have to be smart. Anyways, Cabinet Committee on Investments (CCI) has been set up to assist the investors with investing in political parties. Smart investors ought to know that investing in political parties, especially those in government, is the quickest way to get the investment bottlenecks cleared. Well, to be frank, an unsecured loan to Robert Vadra is the quickest way but that ticket is accessible to only a privileged few.
Dr.Manmohan Singh and I have been telling every brick and tree that would listen, that we need to invest $1 trillion during the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017) to drive our economy and get back to high growth path. We are already one year into the 12th FYP and I am proud to tell you that we have already achieved investment of 0.0001%. FY14 is an election year and Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure has decided to focus on building many new helipads to assist the campaign work of SoniaG and RahulG. Well, I guess that throws the $1 trillion target out of the window but you cannot blame us for not aiming high, eh?
Planning Commission often get questions on what model we use to make predictions for GDP growth and for all the sectors of our economy. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you and everyone that we use the Feel-Good model. For example, one year we made projections of 6%, 8% and 10%. PM said 6% was realistic but too low and 10% could be panned by critics as non-inclusive growth. So he picked 8% as GDP growth forecast and everyone felt good about Indian economy. And that, dear friends, is how a non-constitutional, non-statutory body like Planning Commission with its deputy chairman holding the rank of a cabinet minister continues to retain its prominence.
The one thing that really riles up your other keynote speaker Arvind Kejriwal is the issue of Planning Commission spending Rs.30 lakhs on renovation of toilets. I wouldn’t want to defend myself on the economy of toilets but I shall read out a quote by Rumi and let you make up your own minds on the issue. Rumi said and I quote, “If you cannot shit at ease, you can never bullshit as you please.”
I would like to end by reading out a visionary and path-breaking tweet from one of India’s foremost intellectuals Sagarika Ghose whose advise to Finance Minister mirrors my vision for a great and prosperous India - “create jobs, create growth, create cond[ition]s for every Indian to become rich honestly.”