Amartya Sen vs Bhagwati: Who Is Right In The Debate On Gujarat-Kerala Growth Models?

By admin June 28, 2019 21:48

The spotlight is on economists Amartya Sen, and Jagdish Bhagwati whose rivalry has stirred a political storm in India. Bhagwati stands for what they called the Gujarat model of development, which he reckoned was superior to the contrasting Kerala model of development.

  • He describes the Gujarat model as a metaphor for primary growth and private entrepreneurship is driven development and the Kerala model for a primary redistribution and state-driven development.
  • Sen had upheld what he calls the “Kerala experience” — high social spending resulting in growth — as a role model for other states to follow.
  • The Nobel Prize-winning Harvard University professor is of the view that the Gujarat development model suffered from weaknesses on the social side and could not be considered a success.
  • Bhagwati’s letter had criticised Sen for his alleged ignorance of growth.
  • In his reply, Sen justified his works, saying that though he argues for high spending in education and healthcare, that didn’t mean he was against growth.
  • The only Indian economist to have won the Nobel Prize in economics had proposed a multidimensional approach to measuring poverty than based on consumption alone.
  • He also developed the capability approach, along with the likes of Nussbaum, a concept that inspired the creation of the UN’s Human Development Index.
  • The capability approach brings in various factors, including individual freedoms, which were excluded from welfare economics earlier.
  • It is Sen’s deep understanding of the general equilibrium theory that prompted him to back high social spending along with growth.
  • In fact, none of the countries that have become rich ever talked about any trade-off between social spending and growth.

Kerala Vs Gujarat

  • The Bhagwati-Panagariya duo argues that whatever Kerala had achieved was thanks to a growth-oriented approach.
  • They suggest that Kerala’s high social indicators have much less to do with the so-called Kerala model, and more to do with global trade, growth-oriented policies and private-sector participation
  • But many economists argue that this amounts to a misrepresentation of facts.
  • Professor Bhagwati focuses more on rates of change, while Sen argues that levels matter. For Gujarat, some recent rates of change might look impressive, as it is on a small base, while for Kerala even incremental changes on high levels are impressive as they are difficult to come by.
  • Gujarat can be seen only as a “growth model”, while Kerala’s model is “human development-led growth”.
  • One can examine a dozen or more indicators to establish that Kerala’s achievements in the field of human development are way above the rest.”
  • Infant mortality rates [IMR] of both Gujarat and India are very high and Kerala has made remarkable progress in bringing it down. Rural IMR of Gujarat, which was below all India, has now caught up and converged with all-India levels in an era of faster economic growth.
  • Even more disheartening is the fact that the percentage of severely malnourished children has increased tremendously in Gujarat, and is higher than all-India levels, while that of Kerala is a small fraction,
  • Indicators like these prompt us to raise the question: growth for whom? he asks. “Kerala provides a clear answer: it is for the people, while Gujarat is yet to give us evidence on this,
  • Kerala’s social indicators are still high and there isn’t much gender bias in both health and education.
  • On the other hand, in Gujarat, while the female infant mortality rate stood at 51, the male infant mortality rate was 44 in 2010-11 (the corresponding national figures were 49 and 46, respectively, and for Kerala 11 and 12).
  • In education, in 2011, 87.2% of Gujarati males were literate against 70.7% of females; a gap of 17.2%. The corresponding all-India figures are 82.1% and 65.4%.
  • There are more reasons to worry for Gujarat: 44.6% of children below the age of five suffer from malnutrition whereas nearly 70% suffer from anaemia.
  • The results are bad enough considering states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have fared better.
  • In literacy, too, Gujarat ranks 18th out of 35 states and Union Territories. In sex ratio, the state is way behind the national average of 940 females per 1,000 males.
  • With poverty reduction of 8.6% in five years (2005-10), it is still behind Orissa (19.2%)

Criticism of Bhagvati & Sen

  • But both Bhagwati and Sen haven’t paid enough attention to key flaws in India’s record in implementing government programmes.
  • India is a country where public delivery mechanisms have not worked well and to compare this system with countries in Asia — such as Korea, Taiwan and Thailand — is a flawed approach
  • Besides, Sen hasn’t delved deep into issues related to labour reforms or financing of political parties, issues that are crucial in determining the way our democracy functions.

Bangladesh case study

  • Sen has praised Bangladesh too.
  • Indicators from Bangladesh show India is far behind on many counts.
  • Infant and child mortality rates are now lower in Bangladesh than in India, in spite of Bangladesh having less than half of India’s per-capita GDP.
  • In Bangladesh, 82% of children are fully immunised, 88% get vitamin A supplements, 89% are breastfed within an hour of birth, and 85% are treated with oral rehydration therapy when they have diarrhoea. The corresponding figures for Indian children are below 50% in each case, and as low as 25% for vitamin A supplementation.
  • In conclusion, we can say that “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics because the stakes are so low.”



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By admin June 28, 2019 21:48