Dilip D’Souza, 29 January 2008:
Among other interesting jobs he held in the Indian bureaucracy, my late father was Mumbai’s municipal commissioner – the equivalent of a mayor – from 1969 to 1970. Low-cost housing was always his great interest, and for the last 14 years of his life, he ran a low-cost project in Mumbai’s northern suburbs founded on the cross-subsidy principle. It has about 5,000 subsidized flats, plus about 1,100 others and commercial space for sale at market rates.
My father died last September, but the project goes on. Why does it work? Because the subsidy is small, so residents pay close to market rates for their little flats, and because it has taken so long to complete – nearly 25 years. The slow progress troubled my father and his colleagues greatly. But they understood that in the convoluted world of Mumbai, this remains the only workable way to provide livable, sustainable housing for the poor.
Dilip D’Souza, 20 August 2005:
“The only way”, they’ll say confidently, though often in sepulchral tones. “This is the only way to tackle poverty, there’s no alternative.” They’ll point to Singapore and Taiwan and other Asian tigers, saying, “Look at them! They followed it!” And they’ll sit back, sure that they have proved the worth of “the only way.”
Free markets, they mean.
And me, a faint alarm goes off. Not because it’s free markets — not at all — but because “the only way” smacks a little too much of faith, cuts a little too close to religion.
Dilip D’Souza, 15 April 2005:
Anecdotal evidence, those proponents will say, supercilious smile spreading on their faces because they believe they know better. Anecdotal evidence doesn’t count. You have to look at the numbers. If you do, you will understand what we’ve been saying: the move to free markets is bringing more people out of poverty faster than anything else ever has, at any time in our history. In fact, it’s a proven fact that free markets are the only mechanism there is to truly address poverty.
So just give it some time.
Oh yes, time. After all, who would expect an end to widespread poverty overnight? It must and will take time.
Then again, the reforms have been in place nearly 15 years. That’s over a third of the time from 1947 till liberalisation began. By any standards, that hardly qualifies as “overnight” any more. By any standards, after 15 years during which droves of people escaped from being poor, I should see around me some perceptible decrease in poverty.
On this trip, I didn’t.
Dilip D’Souza, 29 August 2005:
This stopped me in my tracks. After fifteen years of liberalization, the poor eat one extra egg every two months, and that’s “better off”? As I wrote to Aadisht, this seems to me to be a damning of liberalization and the reforms themselves
Dilip D’Souza, 12 September 2007:
It left me bewildered. The reforms have done many things, yes. But here’s one of the true believers in the process, and what does he pull out to trumpet its success?
That the poor eat one extra egg every two months.
By any reckoning and putting it kindly, a damp squib. Even if this represents a dramatic increase in the consumption of eggs, what does it say that fifteen years of reforms have bettered the lives of the poor to the extent that they can buy one additional egg — all of two rupees worth — every two months? To me, making such a claim is in itself a damning of the reforms.
Dilip D’Souza, 29 August 2005:
Of course EGS has failed in places. [referring to a scheme where 4.5 paise out of every rupee reached the poor.]
All words his, all emphasis mine.