Farmers need their dues, not doles from the treasury
The landlocked farmer is not a free citizen. The draconian laws must be tossed into the dustbin of socialist history
That farm loan waivers are politically essential for 2019, but are neither sufficient nor curative for the current agrarian distress is a no brainer. The legendary farmer leader, Sharad Joshi, argued that farmers are no economic offenders and hence mafi (pardon) is an unethical coinage. He argued for karjamukti (freedom from indebtedness) because the Indian State with its devious laws has inflicted chronic bankruptcy, suicides and forced migration on the farmer. Hence farmers have huge dues from the government. This really makes a case for return of ill-gotten wealth to farmers.
The five major Nehruvian socialist instruments of farmer exploitation include: (a) The land ceiling acts forcing farmers to part with long-acquired assets without compensation; (b) The draconian Essential Commodities Act depressing farm produce prices and breeding systemic corruption; (c) The APMC monopoly creating an anti-farmer nexus of political thugs, traders, agents and head loaders; (d) The Foreign Trade Regulation Act manipulating exports and imports to depress domestic farm prices at will; and (e) the Land Acquisition Act. There are more laws on beef ban and on wild animals’ protection causing untold loss and suffering for countless farmers.
The shield to anti-farmer laws afforded by the Schedule IX is an illiberal legacy of the Constitution makers, eroding farmers’ assets, unleashing systemically biased markets and unremunerative prices, preventing exit from farm and also entry of non-farmers to farming and, hence, any serious investment. The resulting loss to farmers, as the Government of India officially told the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1992, was a huge 72% vis-à-vis border prices — a jizia on farmers. The aggregate negative subsidy (about 6-7% now) con- tinues till this date. The question now is: Are the BJP, Congress, socialist ragtag parties, including the green/swadeshi brigades, willing to undo this cause of farmer distress beyond waivers? All of them did and are contributing to this exploitation under various pretexts including high food prices.
And there are complex issues within waivers. Often farm loan waivers help only some farmers (usually under ~1-2 lakh loan limit) and for barely a year or two. Besides, private lending continues to sap farmers. Farmers beyond a holding size and term loans are excluded. In fact, the bigger the farm size and investment, the bigger is the loss. There are also the unpaid power bills. Shetkari Sanghatana is against any freebies and we hold that free power means poor quality and irregular supply, which is most detrimental to farmers. That free power gives a cover for leakages and corruption is another matter. The poor quality power to farms is actually a leftover surplus at night (otherwise a waste if not used), hence deserves no payment at all.
The Shetkari Sanghatana has argued for a paradigm shift from loan waivers to real Karjamukti, because the socialist State has intentionally and systematically caused farm bankruptcy. The landlocked farmer is not a free citizen of India. The five draconian laws and schedule IX must be tossed into the dustbin of socialist history. Free the land markets and align farm produce trade with the WTO framework, and replace food procurement and public distribution with direct cash transfers for the poor. We call for infrastructure investment from public and private sources. Farmers should enjoy access to any technology, including GM, in markets. Any waiver must be embedded in liberal reforms of agrarian political economy. The farmer must be free to pursue or to quit farming like a free citizen. Above all, farmers should get their due from the economy rather than as doles from treasury. This is all what Joshi asked for — a Marshall Plan for farmers.
For most of the past decade, the growing spending power of China’s expanding middle class has fuelled the global economy. After the 2008 financial crisis, I argued that the United States and China would need to swap places — with the US saving more and consuming less, and China doing the opposite. Until the past year, that is largely what had been happening. Not so anymore.
Last week, Apple published a letter to shareholders revising down its expected revenues for the first quarter of 2019, citing an economic slowdown in China, which has become an increasingly important market for iphone, Mac, and ipad sales. Though tech industry analysts are debating whether internal dynamics at Apple might also explain the change, the company’s new guidance nonetheless adds to the evidence that Chinese consumption is slowing.
A sustained decline in Chinese consumption would be even more worrying than the current Us-china trade dispute. Given that US trade policies and other external influences should not have much effect on domestic Chinese spending, the problem may be more deeply rooted in China’s economic model.
To understand what is at stake, consider all that has changed just within the past decade. At the end of 2010, domestic consumption accounted for around 35.6% of Chinese GDP, according to official Chinese data. That was remarkably low compared to most other economies, not least the US, where consumption accounted for almost 70% of GDP. In nominal dollar terms, China’s domestic consumption thus was around $2.2 trillion, or almost five times lower than that of the US ($10.5 trillion).
Yet China’s high overall growth rate meant that Chinese consumers could potentially play a much larger role, with far-reaching benefits for global brands such as Apple, BMW, Burberry, Ford, and many others. As of 2017, Chinese consumption as a share of GDP had risen to 39.1%, representing just over $5 trillion in nominal dollar terms. That is an increase of almost $3 trillion in just seven years. And though Chinese consumer spending still lagged far behind that of the US ($13.5 trillion in 2017), the gap has narrowed.
If China were to continue on the same trajectory in terms of nominal GDP growth and domestic consumption, its consumer
CHINESE POLICYMAKERS WILL NEED TO CONSIDER PROVIDING MORE DIRECT FISCAL SUPPORT, AS WELL AS REFORMING THE HOUSEHOLD REGISTRATION SYSTEM, WHICH DENIES RIGHTS TO RURAL MIGRANT WORKERS
All political parties are contributing to the exploitation of farmers under various pretexts, including high food prices