Article (February-2018)


The economists, disruption and birth of the new

Dr. Vinayshil Gautam

Designation : -   Internationally Acclaimed Management Expert. Chairman, DK International Foundation

Organization : -  


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There is something about being an economist which enables an oversell. This country began its romance with the five-year plans with Mahalanobis holding the centre of the stage. The Mahalanobis model held sway for decades. The Planning Commission became the hub of Centre's grant to the States. The high and mighty of political circles waited their turn to make out their case before the members of the Planning Commission. In course of time, like all things created, the Planning Commission peaked, declined, withered and ultimately met its demise. The present dispensation ruling the country replaced it with NITI Aayog. Another economist was discovered to lead this innovative solution. Predictably he descended on India, from abroad, because of his Indian ethnicity. If he made any outstanding contributions to rejig the planning process, it is still to be known. The economists were as comfortable in the new dispensation, where so called planning was concerned, as were as were the earlier economists. The results however, remained comparable. If the first Vice Chairman of the NITI Aayog performed some miracles they are perhaps the best kept secrets of the country. If NITI Aayog in its last three years plus has made any significant break throughs in the development of the Indian economy, it is yet to be established. In the meanwhile, the world has moved on. Management experts have become an integral part of the governance process in many parts of the world and there is a rush in certain others to find optional solutions for developmental problems.
Courtesy the dawn of the electronics era, the earlier 90's saw the birth of knowledge as an asset. Bill Gates was the great arch-priest. For the first time the balance sheets started listing the intellectual assets. A whole new stream of knowledge organisations took birth and it became not only fashionable but lucrative to be a knowledge worker. Interestingly, just a few years later, natural resources sprung yet again into prominence. Whether an oil company entered a nation state or planned to exit another became the grist-mill of developmental talk. Some will recall how the speculations on Progress Energy Canada Limited sprung into prominence.
The knowledgeable will know that Progress Energy Canada Ltd. was a subsidiary of Petroliam NasionalBhd (Petronas). And the deep basin assets of Alberta were eyed by several investors for its wealth. The fortunes did not turn till Petronas made a statement that it would focus its investments on Canadian unconventional natural gas assets in North Montney, British Columbia. That is another story.
One would have thought that given the fact that Indian reserves of crude and natural gas was modest, we could have emerged strongly as patrons of knowledge management enterprises. Instead we were competitive for HB1 visa for low end jobs in IT related firms in US. The Planning Commission and subsequently NITI Aayog seemed blissfully unmindful of this whole phenomenon. In the meanwhile, the triad of job, skills and wages started gaining greater attention. The drumming up of the growth orchestra only saw the widening of the inequality gap. Some claimed that the richest one percent of the world reportedly owned more wealth that the rest of the population. While Samaritans of globalisation peddled their cause in the knowledge portals of India the inequality increased not only within the country but also amongst the countries. The globe was declared a global village and the village saw the birth of oligarchies, sometimes in the garb of democracy and on others in the garb of socialism. A communist state called Peoples Republic of China decided to spare Taiwan, integrate Tibet, stamp out much of freedom of speech and took on United States, frontally. The leadership of United States considered it a privilege to engage Peoples Republic of China. On occasions, even leaders of terrorism found support from the red giant.
Clearly, the world was at a crossroad. It was not clear whether everything around the globe was improving or declining. Sustainability of environment became a theme which made waves and continues to do so, duly supported and choreographed by nations who made the environment nearly unsustainable. In the melee of this all, people forgot if capitalism itself was sustainable.
Many wondered whether financial system which is essential for global economy had itself somewhat detached from the realities of the real world. It had the natural fall out of finance outpacing growth in the real world economy. The financial system almost acquired human personality and people were beginning to wonder whether it could be trusted or indeed be seen as an entity which evoked confidence. What was not clear even to the economist was whether a more democratised financial system was needed or a more closed one. There almost seemed to be a disconnect between the traditional financial system and newer forms of alternate financing such as crowd - funding, mobile payments and investments and the list can go on.
Interestingly, the biggest boom sector became the weapon sales and here again China was in the forefront especially in South-East Asia. The rest is not yet history but another matter.
Economics of not only Adam Smith but the more resplendent ones duly decorated by Nobel Prize seems to be strongly limping. The social thinkers are finding the social media too much of a genie released out of a bottle. The management experts are happy to lend their shoulders to push the cart of corporate enterprises where profit is the driving motion. The technology man is obsessed with handling process issues but is oblivious of the purpose concerns. They call this the 'brilliance of disruption'.
However, like all fashions this fashion which has enveloped the world in the last three decades or so is itself, destined to pan out. With that, visions will clear and contours of reality become starker. That would be the time of a new beginning.