Our political leaders and mainstream economists should learn from Sonia Gandhi and Amartya Sen

On 19th December, James Lamont in New Delhi, who writes for the Financial Times, reported that Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress Party, said “graft and greed” were rising and that India’s economic growth is coming at the price of a “shrinking moral universe”. 

Mrs. Gandhi intervened after scandals in the sporting, telecoms and property sectors: “Let us not forget that growth is not an end in itself. Much more important to my mind is what kind of society we aspire to be. The broad mass of people must believe in the fairness of the system, if it is to survive.” 

Two days later Lamont reported the words of Amartya Sen, Nobel laureate [economics], who recommended that Indian leaders pay more attention to reducing chronic undernourishment among their country’s 1.2bn people than to pursuing ever higher growth targets. 

Political elites’ obsession with India’s economic growth rate 

Amartya Sen deplores the New Delhi political elites’ obsession with India’s economic growth rate, and their failure to address the condition of about half of the nation’s young children, whose development is stunted due to the severest nutritional deficiencies in the world.

He pointed out that such growth can only be a “positive thing” if it leads to increased social justice, with public revenues devoted to reducing poverty and improving health and education. 

In Britain, politicians and corporate benefactors also focussed for years on economic growth and neglected those on low incomes

Leading figures in India are now recognising and deploring a mindset long accepted in Britain. During our prosperous years the gap between those on high and low incomes actually increased and standards of public healthcare, education and transport declined as politicians and their corporate benefactors promoted a form of economic growth which gave them large rewards. 

Time for change . . .

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