Not too big to solve

Dec 26 2013, 15:27 IST
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SummaryThe tendency to take a macro view of economic problems makes solutions look difficult. We need to go micro.

One of the issues with the quest for solutions to India’s myriad problems — be it in the media, business, academia or in the corridors of government — is the tyranny of macro-thinking. As a nation, we tend to focus on the big picture and make the problems seem so big that solutions look difficult. We compound the problem by looking for perfect solutions. It may be worthwhile to seek workable solutions at the ground level that can be implemented quickly. This is not to say that the macro perspective has to be jettisoned. What we need is a combination of a macro perspective and doable micro-level solutions which are monitored and people held accountable. Otherwise, the discussion of our problems will remain an abstract, sterile and largely academic exercise.

The key issue that the macro-approach fails to appreciate adequately is the diversity of India, coupled with the fact that we need to have vision, strategy, an action plan, monitoring and accountability. The corollary of this diversity is that one size does not fit all, and solutions have to be tailored to suit the different facets of this diversity. If that sounds too abstract, let us start with a concrete example — the diversity of India’s population. This diversity has different manifestations, but the most important, from a purely economic perspective, is the diversity in incomes. When we talk of poverty, education, health, job creation and other such issues, it is important that for all these we identify the appropriate segment of the population, so that specific action plans are drawn up and monitored, and people are held accountable for results. Basically, micro-planning involves asking, “What else we can do for the people” and “What is our position relative to people’s needs”.

Clearly, the solutions would be different for people at the bottom of pyramid, the lower middle class and the middle class (the better off segments can be tackled later). The people at the bottom of the pyramid are unlikely to be either employed or acquire education in a limited period of time. However, 50 to 60 per cent of them have a saleable skill, for example, embroidery, carpentry, marble-laying, goat and livestock rearing, basket-making, farming, etc. They need somebody to create a viable commercial universe that will allow them to use their skills and generate meaningful incomes for themselves while operating in their own geography. Our bank’s effort to

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