Why is Inclusive Growth a Catalyst for Economic Development?
Inclusive growth in its essence sounds like a fairly easy concept to understand, however a government's ability or inability to effectively realise the goal of inclusive growth determines whether or not the society is an equitable one. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines inclusive growth as economic growth that is distributed across society in a fair manner and creates opportunities for all. The pathway to achieve economic growth may include mediums like skill development, technological advancements, financial inclusion and economic growth. The bottlenecks in achieving an inclusive society may include factors like agricultural backwardness, unemployment, regional disparities and poverty.
The Union Budget 22-23 lays the foundations for “Amrit Kaal” and has made “Inclusive Development” the buzz word for 2022 and many years to follow. However, before looking at how the budget lays down the foundations for an inclusive society it is essential to understand why we need one in the first place.
The World Economic Forum’s “Inclusive Development Index”, ranks India 62nd out of the 74 emerging countries when it comes to inclusive development. While India is well on its path to become a $ 5 trillion dollar economy, economic inequalities are still a reality in India, much like many countries globally. The government has to put in place welfare measures that ensure a level playing field for all sections of society. More importantly, COVID-19 has further worsened the pre-existing inequalities in the society, specially the unorganised sector. Many development practitioners believe that in order to achieve the vision of a long-term sustainable and inclusive society, it is crucial for public, private as well as social sector to work in a well-coordinated manner. The budget 2022-23 provides the impetus for the same.
According to a report by Mckinsey, the belief that inclusion and economic growth are inversely proportional and hence need to be addressed separately is inaccurate. On the contrary, it is almost impossible to ensure economic mobility and equitable distribution of resources without complementing the same with an increase in the overall size of the economy. Hence, economic development and inclusivity through access to resources go hand in hand.
The Union Budget's four priorities for growth: PM Gati Shakti, Inclusive Development, Productivity Enhancement & Investment, Sunrise Opportunities, Energy Transition, and Climate Action and Financing of Investment – are comprehensive and inclusive, touching on numerous sectors of health, human capital development, infrastructure, and economic growth. It lays the foundation for Amrit Kaal and the next chapter of India's growth story, which entails increasing rural inclusion, as well as the development of a healthy and sustainable future for its residents and cities, large and small. India's new consumers are aspirational, tech-savvy, and live in both urban and rural areas. This would incorporate rural India in our growth strategy by making the rural economy more vibrant, self-sufficient and its citizens digitally empowered.
The budget addresses the idea of inclusivity in a very holistic and phased manner, making sure that various aspects ranging from employment, housing, sanitation, education, skill development to connectivity, through roads and optic fibres, is attained for all sections of society.
The following measures in the budget talk about Inclusive growth:
- Increased Focus on AgriTech and Natural farming: The use of “Kisan drones” and the push for technology driven agriculture would be beneficial for Indian farmers to ensure high quality yield with mechanisms for regular checks in place. Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 58 per cent of India’s population, thus making reforms in agricultural sector pivotal for development. The government has focused on farm produce value chain as a crucial area for capital infusion. This would be done through a fund with blended capital, raised under the co-investment model, facilitated through NABARD. This fund would provide the necessary financial capital to start-ups for agricultural and rural enterprise, giving them the necessary aid to help farmers increase their yields using high end technology on a rental basis.
- Digitisation of education and skill development: The pandemic has adversely affected every sector, however the overnight shift from an offline to a completely online school system was a very difficult transition for many students and teachers alike. Taking this into cognizance, the budget talked about various new measures in both education and skilling. To impart supplementary teaching and create a resilient mechanism for education delivery, the 'one class-one TV channel' programme of PM eVIDYA will be expanded from 12 to 200 TV channels, helping all states to deliver supplementary education in local languages for classes 1-12. Additionally to equip Indian students with world class education, which can be accessed anywhere across the country, a Digital University will also be setup. Further, to empower citizens to improve their skills with specific focus on “reskilling” or “upskill” a Digital Ecosystem for Skilling Livelihood (DESH-Stack e-portal) will be established.
- Housing for all through PMAY: The government has shown its commitment towards providing “Housing for all” by allocating INR 48,000 crores to the PMAY. The scheme has the potential to aid in four major ways: one, the skewed ratio of high end houses to affordable dwellings may be addressed. Second, to match the rapid rate of migration from rural to urban areas and to ensure that there is no shortage of houses the government has almost doubled the allocations for PMAY in this year’s budget when compared to FY 2021-22. Thirdly, not only is affordable housing a prerequisite for a decent standard of living but is also a very crucial part of a whole without which access to clean drinking water, sanitation and electricity would be in incomplete. This mammoth allocation will further our country’s attempt to provide a decent standard of living to all of its citizens.
- Piped Drinking Water for all Households: The Nal se Jal Yojana was first launched in 2019 as a component of the government's Jal Jeevan Mission with the aim to provide piped drinking water to every rural household by 2024. In this year’s budget the government has allocated INR 60,000 crore to cover 3.8 crore households. Access to tap water is a much needed necessity for rural households and will specially be beneficial to aid women in rural areas who travel for miles together to fetch water needed for basic every day needs. The Jal Jeevan Mission is centred on a community-based approach to water, with substantial information, education, and communication playing a vital part in the scheme’s success.
- Aspirational Districts and Vibrant Villages Programmes: Small towns and villages in India have immense untapped potential for innovation, to leverage the same it is crucial to not only equip our villages with the required infrastructure but at the same time also build a self-sustainable startup ecosystem which aims at achieving an Atmanirbhar Bharat. With this budget the government has decided to take its Aspirational districts program a notch forward and focus on “Aspirational Blocks”. Additionally, recognising the Indian border villages as a place where defence and civilian life co-exists, the government’s Vibrant Villages Program would also ensure that the villages located at the borders of India receive the required infrastructural development and improved connectivity.
- Increased connectivity for remote regions: Many regions in India continue to lag behind in mainstream development due to their geographical distance and lack of connectivity. The ‘Parvatmala: National Ropeways Development Programme’ introduced by the government would prove to be a game changer to ensure inclusive development. The programme intends to enhance connectivity in India’s remote regions like Jammu and Kashmir, North East and Ladakh, while also keeping in mind ecological sustainability by using alternatives to conventional roads.
Our previous generations envisioned India as a country where all citizens lived with dignity and enjoyed the benefits of development equally. It is critical that the government and industry continue to leverage critical broadband infrastructure and services to unlock the growth potential of villages and towns. Under the able guidance of our Prime Minister, no stone has been left unturned to ensure that India’s growth is not only constant and sustained but also inclusive, so that the fruits of development are distributed equally to all sections of the society keeping the interests of the vulnerable sections of the society at utmost priority.
This article has been authored by Ishita Sirsikar.