ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

M H SuryanarayanaSubscribe to M H Suryanarayana

Achilles' Heel of Public Policy

An inadequate information base and limited institutional capacity for policy formulation seem to be important factors constraining India's public policy pursuits. A look at the major recommendations of the Report of the High Level Committee on Reorienting the Role and Restructuring of Food Corporation of India illustrates that this has not changed in more than six decades of independence. Though a good understanding of the issue is essential for any policy formulation to be effective, an evaluation shows that there are good reasons to be sceptical about the committee's comprehension of issues, methods and interpretations.

How Inclusive Is India's Reform(ed) Growth?

Given the contemporary public concern about the worsening relative deprivation of the masses and the need for appropriate policies to address the social cost of the reform programme, the Government of India has declared its commitment to the aam aadmi and the poorest of the poor. This paper examines how far the government has been successful in realising its objective of inclusive growth. As evidence of outcomes, it examines the National Sample Survey data on household consumption distribution in terms of relative distributional measures across social groups at different levels of regional aggregation by rural and urban sector. The estimates from four different NSS rounds for the agricultural years 1993-94, 2004-05, 2009-10 and 2011-12 throw up a profile of exclusion of the poor involving exclusionary growth of the better-off in the economy as a whole. At the national level, disparities across social groups have increased involving a widening of the average consumption shortfall of the scheduled tribes, a decline for the scheduled castes, marginal decline for the Other Backward Classes and an increase in the excess of average consumption of Other Social Groups with respect to the overall median. Similar analyses at the level of major states, by sector, corroborate in general the findings at the national level of an era of exclusionary growth confined to the better-off sections.

Intra-State Economic Disparities: Karnataka and Maharashtra

This study addresses issues related to definition, dimension, and measure of economic disparities from the perspective of the finance commission. It illustrates concepts and measures within the Kuznets framework for Karnataka and Maharashtra. Though the two states are better off than the nation as a whole in terms of mean-based estimates of average income, they have pronounced inter-regional disparities, interpersonal inequalities and intra-regional deprivations. Broad-based and inclusion measures are generally higher in poor backward regions and vice versa, implying broad-based backwardness and inclusion in deprivation. Such a scenario sets limits on the potential for resource mobilisation and makes a case for investment strategies that promote broad-based inclusive growth across all regions at the state level.

What Is Exclusive About 'Inclusive Growth'?

Inclusive growth is the new mantra of national and international agencies, but what does it mean and how does one measure inclusion or the lack of it? In contrast to policy documents that discuss inclusive growth in loose terms, this paper makes an attempt to define the concept and aims to develop measures of inclusion. Given the methodological inadequacies of verifying a broad-based growth process in terms of mean-based averages of income and absolute-norm based measures of deprivation, the study proposes order-based averages for verifying the presence of broad-based growth and extent of inclusion of the poor in terms of the consumer expenditure distribution. In addition, to facilitate verification and comparison of both inter- and intra-group inclusion in a plural society, normalised measures with reference to both mainstream/overall and subgroup averages are worked out. The tentative estimates indicate that the growth process between 1993-94 and 2004-05 bypassed the majority and was not inclusive. At the national level, the inclusion coefficient is higher for the rural sector than for the urban. The association between median consumption and the inclusion coefficient across states is weak, which would also imply that there is no cross-sectional evidence to believe that growth in India has been inclusive.

Agflation and the Public Distribution System

The demand for "universalisation" of the public distribution system during a period of rising prices is not relevant since, more than four-fifths of households in rural areas and two-thirds in urban centres are already covered by it. Yet, a very small proportion of rural/urban households actually make purchases of either rice or wheat from the PDS; an insignificant amount of consumption is met by ration shop purchases. The pattern is somewhat better for below the poverty line households with ration cards. What all this shows is that the issue is not universalisation but improved functioning, greater efficiency and BPL-friendliness of the PDS.

Measuring Poverty in Karnataka

Regionally disaggregated estimates of poverty within India's states are typically not computed because of inadequate sample sizes available for geographic or administrative units below the state level. This paper attempts to ameliorate the sample size problem by pooling the 1999-00 NSS 55th round central and state sample data. We use the pooled data to examine regional variation in poverty within Karnataka. The poverty estimates reveal significant geographic imbalances, with much higher levels and concentration of poverty in the northern districts. Regional patterns are found to be reasonably consistent with independent correlates of poverty, including agricultural wages, employment shares, and district domestic products. However, one important inconsistency is that the rural-urban differentials in poverty rates are not credible and warrant further attention.

How Real Is the Secular Decline in Rural Poverty?

There is a consensus that poverty in India has declined since the mid-1970s. This study contests this view by examining the suitability of the database and its implications for the observed trends in poverty estimates in the context of structural changes in the rural economy. It contends that the statistical estimates do not show a real reduction in poverty but only a reduction in overestimation of poverty for the initial years followed by its underestimation for the later years.

Making Sense of Data

Making Sense of Data M H Suryanarayana Econometrics and Data Analysis for Developing Countries by Chandan Mukherjee, Howard White and Marc Wuyts; Routledge, London, 1998.

Uruguay Round and Global Food Security

M H Suryanarayana The article deals with the salient features of the Uruguay Round of GATT and their implications for global food security. The various provisions and exemptions provided for in the Uruguay Round leave enough scope for distorted markets to persist and hence the expected macro gains may not materialise. The article argues, with reference to empirical studies on Asia and Africa, that questions relating to food insecurity can be dealt by effective targeted efforts ensuring food security at the regional as well as household levels.

Poverty Estimates and Indicators-Importance of Data Base

Importance of Data Base M H Suryanarayana This paper emphasises the importance of the data base in any discussion of poverty and identifies the major data gaps for policy studies. Beginning with the identification of the poor based on a measure of standard of living and a minimum norm and going up to the final stage of policy prescription, an awareness of the data base and the constraints it imposes on interpretations is crucial. Conventional approaches to poverty identification and measurement presuppose a stationary economy. But in an economy subject to changes in institutional parameters involving increasing commercialisation of product markets and growing casualisation of labour markets, as in India in recent years, the conventional approach can yield misleading results and policy prescriptions.

Food Security Misconceived Policies

era, this problem has been swept aside by the new orthodoxy, according to which the role of the ethnographer is to record and reproduce the multiplicity of Native' voices rather than to search for some kind of objective understanding a retreat from the 'burden of authorship', in Geertz's words. Both books intend to allow women to speak for themselves, but in the ways they arc allowed to 'speak' it is clear that it is the ethnographer who is speaking through THIS is a collection of essays based on a conference on 'Alternative Food Policies in Eastern and Southern Africa' in August 1993. The main theme was the relationship between food policy, food security and poverty. The volume is multi-disciplinary in approach. The authors include researchers, policy-makers and NGOs with considerable exposure to pastoral production, 'indigenous knowledge' and the environment. The significance of their studies for a continent exposed to frequent drought, soil erosion and other environmental hazards can hardly be overemphasised. Africa is the only region in the world where per capita food production has been declining tor almost two decades. The average calorie intakes are much below the standard nutritional requirements.

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