The town of Davos in Swiss Alps hosts the annual World Economic Forum (WEF), which has, over the years, emerged as the favorite destination of the politicos and plutocrats, accompanied by high profile journalists and economists, to deliberate and come up with ideas on how to transform this mother earth into their fiefdom. This year, our Prime Minister, setting aside his self-proclaimed common man status for a while, became a ‘Davos Man’ and freely mingled with “fatcats in the snow” who lord over the globalized neoliberal world. He spoke exaltedly about Indian culture in Hindi in compliance with the ideas his party advocates – Hindi-High Caste Hindu-Hindustan.
Our Prime Minister, who came to power claiming himself to be the messiah of the masses, has always been a 100% politician. When he addresses the masses on the eve of elections he repeatedly reminds the electorate, who mostly constitute the poor and the vulnerable, of his self-proclaimed ‘Chaiwala’ background, and when he addresses the CEOs he quickly changes his stance to state “ease of doing business is ease of living” implying that only tycoons are entitled to ease of living and others are doomed to lead their lives laboriously by struggling to earn their livelihoods. He says common man does not want sops but conceals the fact that his fat cat industrialist cronies want so many sops in the form of deregulation, tax cuts, incentives and bailouts, which he has either been giving them or promised to give them for the last three and half years on the pretext of ‘reforms’.
At Davos he spoke eloquently about a borderless world conveniently forgetting about the divisive fences his government has erected through the tacit approval of the communal activities carried out by Hindutva forces back home. He even mentioned “Vasudhiva Kutumbakam” meaning ‘the world is one family’, ignoring the fact that a silent majority which is part of the family called ‘bharatvarsh’ are leading squalid lives suffering abject poverty paving way for an unending accumulation of wealth for the super-rich. Any efforts to extend a helping hand to them by improving the social infrastructure through public funding of hospitals and schools are spurned by branding them as “reckless populism”. His advisers repeatedly announce that their boss is not a populist. So it would be better if the PM implements “Vasudhiva Kutumbakam” first at home before pitching for its universal implementation.
Our PM is pushing the neoliberalism with a missionary zeal at a time when the people all over the world are increasingly getting exasperated with the same and there is an intense backlash against it. ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and the emergence of right-wing politics are the testimony to the fact that jobless growth and ever widening economic inequalities are emerging as the most potent sources of discontent.
The modus operandi of neoliberalism is the wealthy west, represented by the institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), extend credit to third world countries taking advantage of the widespread poverty prevailing in them to impose Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). To meet their external debt service obligations these third world countries have to export more to earn the much needed foreign exchange. When the third world tries to export, the wealthy west, especially the United States, erects protectionist barriers forcing them to get entrapped in perpetual debt. They also force them to throw the doors of their economies wide open to the western multinational corporations so that they can freely exploit the natural resources and cheap labor present in them. That is how exactly this neoliberal borderless world works.
The obsession of policy makers with private investment, fiscal deficit and exports is working against the interests the commoners and have become a golden goose for the rich. In the name of fiscal prudence the role of the government is reduced paving way for privatization of everything. In the name of encouraging private investment the entire governance is revolving around catering to the demands of the corporates through pushing the ‘ease of doing businesses’. And in the name of export promotion they are encouraging sweatshops and dilution of labour laws, which have resulted in widespread exploitation of the working class. The neoliberalism is actually a neo-imperialism, which thrives on the sweat and blood of the third world and the PM wants to push India deep into this quagmire.
The pursuit of GDP growth has become an obsession of our politicos. When the GDP growth slows down they say they need to reform more. Then they further deregulate offering more tax cuts, more bailouts and more incentives. This reform process is never ending and it appears that it will end only after the last chunk of natural resources and the last rupee falls into the hands of the plutocrats and this nation is turned into a perfect oligarchy. The signs of this are becoming increasingly perceptible and the latest Oxfam report, which stated that India’s richest 1% garnered as much as 73% of the total wealth generated in the country in 2017, proves beyond doubt that oligarchy has already been established in India. Modi’s botched up implementation of the regressive GST is also contributing to the deterioration in the economic condition of the masses.
Modi, while showing great enthusiasm to push the so-called reforms to fully embrace neoliberalism, also quoted Gandhiji’s words, “this world has enough to satisfy our needs but does not have enough to satisfy our greed”. The US, which is the epicenter of neoliberalism stands as a living testimony of how over consumption, especially credit fueled consumption, forms the very backbone of the highly unsustainable neoliberal culture.
The neoliberal economic system advocates more production and more consumption. The moment one of them slowdown the GDP numbers fall and the casinos called stock markets slump. When the economy does not perform well the only thing politicos, plutocrats and their advisors say is the current dose of reforms is highly inadequate and they need to introduce more reforms. In an essence it is a self-defeating rat race which will end up a disaster one day. And it is surprising to see that PM Modi talks about frugality and sustainability even while pushing India into the neoliberal quagmire, which is the very anathema of the Gandhian ideals.
All in all the speech delivered by PM Modi is laden with contradictions and his enthusiasm to appease both commoners and super rich is not going to succeed. Neoliberalism and stock market-centric economic policies only aggravate the suffering of the commoners.