Bennett University had a “Bennett Brewings” talk in a coffee and conversations format with Dr S P Kothari, former deputy dean of Sloan School of Management at MIT. As is the case with many of these talks it is the anecdotes that stay with you. Here are a few thoughts that stuck with me.
1. We Indians are a self-satisfied bunch
Cyprus, a nation of about 800k people, gets about 2 million visitors each year. Yet they are worried about the future of tourism and are worried about how to make it more attractive to travellers. The president of one of Finland’s universities worries about how to improve the innovation culture at her university. Yet as Dr Kothari says when he meets Indian government officials all he hears is, “everything is fine” and “we are the fastest growing” without us being anywhere near Cyprus or Finland or most other parts of Asia or the West in terms of tourist arrivals, innovation or per capita income. This speaks of utter complacency.
2. There is a desperate need for decentralization
In the US, local government – the town council for the most part, is in charge of every day-to-day activity like garbage collection, police force, fire brigade, the school system (curriculum, teacher appointment, etc.). His own example was his town of about 3-35,000 people. What this means is local accountability. Corruption gets handled because people can see who is stealing from the town funds, etc. Having so much power in India concentrated in the state and union governments removes much of this accountability. As we are just about to begin the budget session, I cannot but be amazed that we still have secrecy associated with the budget making process. Are we not a democracy? Can we not have a discussion about what goes in and what stays out of the budget? Why the secrecy?
3. The size of the productivity gap
A friend of the professor runs a farm in the US which is about 1900 acres in size. He asked the audience members to guess the number of workers the friend employs. Try to guess the number. The answer is four. Think of the productivity gap.
4. Failure of the judiciary
The US Supreme Court hears about a hundred cases each year. India’s Supreme Court hears over a thousand each month. What does that say about the quality of the subordinate judiciary?