In the second instalment of his interaction series with experts, Rahul Gandhi was seen today speaking with Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee. Speaking to Banerjee over the current economic situation of the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, Rahul Gandhi focused on how Congress policies like NREGA and the proposed NYAY would have benefitted the poor in such a crisis.
However, the Nobel laureate was not in agreement with Rahul. When Rahul Gandhi asked that the UPA’s policies like NREGA had focused on the poor but with the Coronavirus situation, the millions are going to fall back into poverty, Banerjee stated most of the policies by the UPA were inadequate. He added that the NDA too had embraced and continued the policies.
A conversation with Nobel Laureate, Abhijit Banerjee on the economic impact of the COVID19 crisis. https://t.co/dUrok8Wm3Q— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) May 5, 2020
Banerjee however, asked that we should rather focus on the people who are not covered by the existing welfare policies. He stated that the idea of using the Aadhar as a national identity and applicable for rations and employment anywhere in India would benefit migrant workers a lot.
Rahul Gandhi then asked about the potential damage to the MSME and its direct impact on employment due to cash-flow issues and the shock of coronavirus. To this, Banerjee stated that the country needs a bigger stimulus package like the USA and Japan. He added that instead of the moratorium on debts, the government should waive off EMIs for the quarter.
Banerjee stated that the MSME can be revived best if people get cash on their hands to spend. When Gandhi asked whether he is talking about a version of NYAY, Banerjee stated that the target is not just the poor, money should be given to a significant population so that they will go and spend it, and thus help the economy.
Banerjee added that the government should at least promise people that they will give them some money to spend when the lockdown is lifted.
Gandhi then asked the sooner the lockdown is lifted, the better it will be for the economy. To this, Banerjee replied that we cannot just lift the lockdown only focusing on the economy when a disease is raging through the world. Banerjee then advocated the idea of temporary ration cards that are provided to anyone who wants them to ensure food security because the harvest has been good and the government can give away food.
Banerjee then stated that the government should work on how to give people cash. He speculated that many of the migrant labourers may not have Jan Dhan accounts, and the governments should work on how to give them cash on their hands. Banerjee stated that the state and central governments should work on distributing cash even at the risk of misappropriations and corruption.
Rahul Gandhi also asked about the decentralisation of power, focusing n how the approaches of individual states have been different. Banerjee replied that migrant movements cannot be handled by decentralised power and only a federal government can manage that.
Rahul Gandhi then stated something that is already being implemented at every level. He insinuated that the current government is focused on centralisation of power and local decisions are not entirely in the hands of local authorities. This was a strange insinuation, because the lockdown, coronavirus healthcare management, and welfare schemes are all implemented, managed supervised through local authorities.
To Rahul’s question, Banerjee replied that the government should instead have given money to the local governments to spend in specific schemes. He even implied that many people are still left out of welfare schemes and for that the governments should take the risk of corruption and misappropriation and just make funds available to local authorities so they can distribute money to the people who need it.
Throughout the discussion, Banerjee kept implying that even with the risk of corruption, the government should pump money into people’s hands. He stated that putting cash in the hands of people is the best way to kickstart the economy.
Discussing the global scenario, Banerjee stated that though the rise of China is a threat, the reaction of the USA to the rise of China will be much more destabilising to the world. He stated that the leaders of Brazil and the USA pretending to be ‘strongmen’ is very scary.