Welfare has unfortunately turned into an undesirable word in the political discourse from Delhi to Athens. The Greek public had an emphatic no vote to the EU Deal in terms of voting in the leftist Syriza. The Maverick Academic Finance Minister of Greece later had to tone down its rhetoric of leaving the EU. But, a bold voice never the less. A fresh breath in the hackneyed discussion. There are a few factors which brought Greece to its tether such as a huge bureaucracy but the structural transformation program (read brutal cost cutting) is simply humiliating for an ancient civilization. The Goldman Sachs instruments only added insult to injury. Since Narendra Modi’s BJP Government has come to power, Welfare has taken back seat. The Work for Employment Scheme aka MNREGA has been slashed as the Food Security Bill. While, Corporate Tax Holidays has increased in the words of Development Journalist P Sainath.
Even, the proposed projected 25.5 Billion Dollar outlay (Livemint, 27th March 2015) for the Universal Healthcare Plan in India on the lines of ObamaCare has been halted in the tracks. Billions of dollars can be spent for Defense and Tax Breaks but for treating a poor man for his heart ailment in a hospital is simply not worth it as is putting food on the table of the hungry, only to be feted by awards from the Davos Elite while sipping flutes of champagne. The AAP Victory is Delhi was a vote for welfare and compassionate capitalism where the urban poor in Mahipalpur near the airport wanted to have a voice in the discourse rather the chic GK’s, ironically both in South Delhi. I have very been pro welfare in stance since a while especially on Food Security in October 2013 when I came on Al Jazeera to make a moral case for Food Security. Welfare is often the last resort of the poor and, inefficiencies and pilferage in the political economy of service delivery should not be used as an excuse to snatch away access to basic health care from the marginalized and subaltern. The Indian State is often a far away entity to the common man on the street and a void is often filled by faith based or community organizations in healthcare. There is a point to start and then iterate with the mechanics but do not deny the facilities if proper service delivery mechanisms cannot be constructed and maintained. Building systems takes time and great systems such as the NHS in the UK and Social Security in the US have taken their own time. ObamaCare or The Affordable Care Act has brought in 16 million additional people healthcare solutions. In a recent Atlantic article it has been argued that the social security cover has made America more risk taking and entrepreneurial. In this years Budget, Singapore which has been a poster-boy of free-market capitalism in Asia has nudged to the left with increased social protection platforms for its poor. The media coverage in the Singaporean press has been covering a lot of social stories including migrant worker food issues and ways to get the urban poor at better shot at social mobility. A new social contract for a left leaning Global City as a recent Strait Times Op-Ed quipped, should be real cool.
It can be said that the author has had a comfortable upbringing and what do i know about being poor. It needs empathy as the Middle Class is three skipped mortgage payments away from developing a class consciousness. Ask about being very little money in my account and without work and I do know what it feels like in that desperate situation. Corporate Tax Breaks and access to state infrastructure to develop industry and then call for government to be not in the business of business is a flawed argument. A lot of corporate profits are cross subsidized by the state ask the Gulf Owned Air Carriers. Private profits are just but feeding a poor man is a waste of money?
Welfare with proper checks and balances creates a more equitable society over the long term. Lets create more humane communities, one neighborhood at a time. A policy push sets the direction, and welfare plays a major role.