Saturday, 16 November 2019

Characteristics of an Evolving Democracy

When large sections of people are devoid of growth and development over long periods of time, their dissatisfaction results in change of guard at the highest levels of governance. Different political leaders reach out to people on different grounds including religion, region, language,race, caste etc. Some of these leaders are born out of the miseries of the people. Others are demagogues who take advantage of people's frustration. The reason for people's dissatisfaction is more economic in nature rather than any thing else - it may take a different form but the underlying cause is mostly economic in nature.

Over a period of time, it is important to develop and disseminate economic indicators at all administrative levels. One for the government itself, to understand whether they are on the right track and for people at large, to be able to assess the performance of their public representatives.  Every now and then we come across charismatic leaders who can garner people's support irrespective of economic issues. And make no mistakes charismatic leaders are required to establish stable governments. But, it is always important to remember that institutions are more important than individuals. Over a period of time, we need to have a system in place where we can distinguish between good performance and window dressing.

There will be people who are direct beneficiaries of government schemes and there will be others who may not be directly benefited by government schemes. (excluding common subsidies, roads and buildings, policing, military, water and electricity supply etc) Specially, working and middle class people may not have time and energies to evaluate the performance of their governments. It is important to have in place independent and unbiased institutions which make economic performance indicators available to the people at large. These indicators should be easy to use and understand for even less educated people. Don't just make them available but advertise - let people know about these indicators. Suppose if these economic indicators are made available on a web portal, then these web addresses should be displayed at all prominent places in the national and vernacular languages. In some cases, advertising could be the differentiating factor. As per a news article by The Economic Times (https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/internet/internet-users-in-india-to-reach-627-million-in-2019-report/articleshow/68288868.cms?from=mdr), by the end of December 2018, there were around 56 crores internet users and overall internet penetration was at 40% in India. So making economic indicators available on a web portal and advertising about them could be one of the better ways of reaching out to people. As literacy levels grow and internet penetration, increases digital platforms are going to play a critical role in large democracies.

It is extremely important to respect people's sentiments and emotions but at the same time rationality can't take a back seat. A mature democracy would be one where political decision making is based on economic realities - whether it is at the highest policy making levels or at the bottom where voting decisions are made and policies transform into action.

Any growth vision or agenda without proper checks and balances may not yield the desired results. 

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