Originally Published 2004-10-26 05:21:14 Published on Oct 26, 2004
The current focus on ¿domestic issues¿ in the US presidential poll campaign may have a lesson or two for India, where economic reforms, and introducing a ¿human face¿ to the process have been drawing as much attention. In a way, Senator John Kerry, the Democratic challenger to Republican President George Bush,
Reviewing Reforms, the US Way
The current focus on 'domestic issues' in the US presidential poll campaign may have a lesson or two for India, where economic reforms, and introducing a 'human face' to the process have been drawing as much attention. In a way, Senator John Kerry, the Democratic challenger to Republican President George Bush, has taken the election away from the 'Iraq War' and also foreign policy issues, but with no small contribution from the incumbent, has also managed to keep it 'Kerry-centric'. <br /> <br /> Senator Kerry has focussed extensively on education and employment, healthcare and insurance. His Democratic supporters have pointed out how one-room Government schools were still there in some parts of&nbsp; the US, and he has argued how two-thirds of&nbsp; college-entrees drop out because of the need to earn for their own upkeep and education. In the same vein Senator Kerry has also claimed - without any counter - how the unemployment rate under the Bush Administration was the highest in 70-plus years, though the obvious and unsaid reference is to the years of the 'Great Depression', which every American would like not to be reminded about, even remotely. <br /> <br /> On the healthcare front, Senator Kerry has argued how 'prescription drugs', and hospitalisation costs have all become unaffordable to morer and more Americans under the Bush Administration. He has alleged that President Bush cow-towed big insurance firms, leading to higher premia and difficult conditionalities, thus denying health insurance cover to millions of ordinary Americans. This in particular comes at a time when such insurance firms are keen on entering the Indian market in a very big way - the reforms-induced medicinal and healthcare costs having made self-support increasinglhy unaffordable by the&nbsp; day. <br /> <br /> It's anybody's guess if a President Kerry, if it came to that, would deliver on the promises now being made by candidate Kerry. Yet, he has made the presidential poll campaign, increasingly focussed on the 'social sector', an euphemism this for subsidies and support systems. As current trends would show, he represents over 40 per cent of the voter-population in the US, and that is saying a lot about the support for the issues that he presents, and now represent. In a way, this, as also the need to win over the 'swing voters' in 'battleground States' has forced President Bush to rethink on some of his strategies on these key areas of voter-support and social betterment, though he remains steadfast on his overall policies.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> It's also nobody's case that India should reverse the reforms gear. But there is every reason to argue that the reforms process should be suited and tailored to the Indian needs and conditions. To the extent that the issues that are being debated in the US has great relevance to the existing Indian conditions, and there is something that policy-planners in the country could learn from the ongoing debate, and also&nbsp; the issues and constituencies that they represent, there is some meaning to the process. It all boils down to 'reforms with a human face' that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as the very author of the reforms regimen, has been advocating for long. <br /> <br /> The fact is that in the US context at least, the basic premises on which the nation's economic policy, as foreign policy, is built, remains unaltered, whichever party or person comes to occupy the White&nbsp; House. With the result, successive election campaigns have become squabbling matches over details - or worse still, focussed on personal morals and 'family values'. It has become no different in the Indian context, particularly after the Manmohan Singh-inspired Narasimha Rao Government, and the BJP-led Vajpayee Government continued to implement the reforms without much change or substance.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> While there is no 'third front' in the American context to alter or upset the status quo , the attempts of the Congress and the BJP to obtain post-facto voter approval to the reforms as they saw jointly and severally has led to the voter giving the Left and regional parties a decisive say&nbsp; in decision-making. In a way, this has also contributed to the Naxalites in States like Andhra Pradesh wanting to enter the mainstream, to fill a vacuum that they seem to think is emerging all over again. It's a situation that may prove real, and needs to be addressed and accommodated.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Aping the US, whose message has also altered the economic face of West European nations since the&nbsp; collapse of the Soviet communism, would do neither India, nor Indians any good. Adapting the US after a through review of the reforms regimen and the&nbsp; success of the implementation process alone would&nbsp; help. For, it was more so at the level of&nbsp; implementation that 'democratic socialism' too failed India - though the process itself was allowed to&nbsp; take the blame - and away from personalities who needed hauling up, instead. <br /> <br /> <em>* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.</em>
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