Its been a month since Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s Statue of Unity was inaugurated, yet the manufactured controversy surrounding it refuses to die down. In the last few days two well known public figures tweeted on the same:
As epitomized here, the biggest grouse that the naysayers seem to have is surrounding the economics of the statue, namely: the money used to make the statue, should have been invested in alleviating poverty and that the other monuments so frequently quoted by nationalists are in developed countries, funded by private parties and not the government of the day.
This article is an attempt to rebut this facile argument.
The Statue of Unity, on the banks of the Narmada in Vadodara Gujarat, was constructed, for a sum of Rs 2,989 crores. It is currently the tallest statue in the world but is constantly compared with the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building and The Statue of Liberty. It is thus imperative to look at the other monuments which the Statue of Unity is being compared to one way or another.
Was there a controversy around Eiffel Tower?: Yes!
The Eiffel Tower, a global icon today, constructed between 1887-1889, as an entrance to the 1889 World’s fair, is 324 meters tall. During its construction, it too, much like the Statue of Unity faced criticism from a group of Artists, in France:
We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection … of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower … To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of Les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years … we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal.
Was the Eiffel Tower cheap to construct? Was it constructed during times of Economic Prosperity?: No to both!
Originally the cost of the tower in 1889, was close to 8 million francs, which even in 1889 amounted to a sizable cost.
But what our perfunctorily read friends in opposition and their rag-tag coalition fail to acknowledge is that the year 1889, the year of the inauguration of Eiffel tower, was also the year when the largest Bank Bailout of that time happened in France. Without going into the nuts and bolts of the crisis, suffices to say that on the evening of 7th of March, the French Minister of Finance, at that time, met the leading bankers of the day to form a plan, now called “lifeboat bailout” to rescue the Banque De France and prevent a Bank Run from happening. This was just two months before the Eiffel Tower was opened to the public. It was certainly not a case of great economic prosperity and calm in the run-up to the inauguration of the monument, as our ill-read friends from left like to claim.
Was the Eiffel Tower Privately Funded?: It was project financed. So, it was complicated!
The charge that the Eiffel Tower was a privately funded monument and that the government of the day had nothing to do with it, is not entirely correct.
Eiffel Tower is not just a feat of engineering but a financial feat too, where the public and private authorities entered into a contract to privately fund the construction cost of the tower, and then recover the same from ticket sale over a period of time.
The monument overtime would revert to public ownership once the cost got recovered. It’s an example of project financing, which is widely used for a whole lot of infrastructure projects across the world. This sort of project financing is also known as the Build, Operate Transfer model and the Public-Private Partnership or the PPP model.
What’s the point of the controversy? : Now we get to the core of the grudge!
The larger point that the left-leaning couch-economist are trying to obfuscate about is that the monuments such as Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, make sound economic sense since over a period of time these monuments make money many times over their construction cost.
For instance, the Eiffel tower, between 2011-2015, generated between Euro 50-60 million per annum from ticket sale alone. The Statue of Unity, earned Rs 2.1 crores in the first 10 days itself.
Add to this the fillip it gives to the growth of dependent industries, tourism, logistics, and we are looking at an economic revival model that can be easily replicated across states, across countries.
Indeed, if one takes a closer look at the revenue generation by Statue of Unity, as on date, one can assume that over time it too, like its brethren monuments overseas will turn out to be a money- spinner, something that is definitely detrimental to the left model of governance.