Even as finance minister P Chidambaram indicated that enhanced allocations to social sector programmes would be possible through a higher GDP growth rate, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen on Friday said higher economic growth cannot be equated with a better quality of life.
Fulfilling elementary needs such as education, healthcare and sanitation must be considered essential parameters of development instead of just GDP numbers, Sen said at the launch of the International Centre for Human Development by UNDP and the Indian government.
“India must not only try to catch up with China’s GDP growth but also its quality of living and development,” he said, adding that over 200 million people in India still do not have electricity while 48 per cent of the population does not have access to toilets. “Talking about easier power tariffs or cheaper cooking gas is not the thing to do in such a scenario,” he said.
His comments come at a time when Columbia University professors Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagriya have argued that the Gujarat model of development which is primarily growth-driven can alleviate poverty. In their recent book, India’s Tryst with Destiny: Debunking Myths that Undermine Progress and Addressing New Challenges, the two economists have also challenged Kerala’s model of development that is driven largely by redistribution and state support.
Sen was also dismissive of the view that the government food subsidies should be delayed in order to contain its fiscal deficit.
While stressing that he does not have a ‘Kerala model’ of development, Sen pointed out that social indicators such as immunisation, poverty and literacy in many states such as Gujarat and Karnataka are dismal.