Civil Society and Prosperity
November 19, 2020

Civil Society and Prosperity | Insights from Charcha 2020

Liberty and poverty alleviation

Liberty is a powerful tool to bring people out of poverty. The expert talk debunked myths of low wage countries are competitive in attracting more FDI. Often low wages are confused with low labour cost. Low wages mean poverty and is not a sustainable selling point. The poorest countries in the world are far from successful in attracting foreign capital.The comparative advantage lies in low labour cost which means the percentage of capital spent on hiring, training and retaining the labour. This is proven by data from the World Bank, IMF, etc that most of the investments go to high wage countries who have high labour productivity. This is achieved through skill development and infrastructure. A bedrock of liberty creates conditions for free and fair trade and entrepreneurship.

Sectoral reforms and de-regulation

The fault lines of inequity exposed by Covid-19 were less along the lines of India vs. Bharat (ie: Urban vs. Rural) – rather, they showed the divide between free and open sectors with markets as the primary movers vs. highly regulated sectors that have a direct involvement of the state. Experts shared the stage to discuss various ways of empowering the poor:challenges of the agriculture sector, informals and invisibles, and the feasibility of direct cash transfers. The called for reforms in sectors like agriculture, and informal urban sectors with a focus on enabling and empowering the workers, and not merely regulating these spaces for conformity. Measures to increase liquidity and ease of transactions, improving basic infrastructure and ensuring minimum wage security were hailed as steps in the right direction.  

Aligning opposing forces

“Politics without Romance'' evaluated the role of interests, incentives, and information in shaping public policy outcomes. When interests of the various players in the system are misaligned, an expectation of positive change is misplaced optimism. It is important for those aspiring to make systemic change, to understand the system from various vantage points –communities, nonprofits, legislators, bureaucrats, regulators etc. and seek win-win opportunities overcoming what might seem like conflicting interests.Long term sustainable change requires the delicate balance of give and take in the pursuit of common good.  

Panellists also chalked out ways to bring India's public wealth back to the public, reaffirming that the war against poverty is in fact, an effort to unlock and redistribute wealth in an equitable manner.

The role of civil society has manifested in a significant manner through Covid. However there is a need for strengthening the influence of civil society far beyond its current state. There is a growing realisation of the need for a more symbiotic relationship between industry and labour, and that relationship that needs to be nurtured.

Youth in the new normal

In the times of the pandemic, sessions focused on youth participation in civil society aimed to create a space for much needed collaborative conversations leading to recommendations from among the attendees.  The Coalition will pick up many of these in its programming agenda. 

Paradoxes of the Pandemic: Participants came together to unearth the paradoxes of Lives & Livelihoods, Narratives & Reality and Democratic Rights & Public Health (in COVID times) through a learning dialogue

Panellists focused on maximising the impact of civil society and enhancing youth leadership

Challenges and the way ahead

The narrative on  focusing on means to increase prosperity through personal liberty, free and liquid markets, deregulation  of critical sectors and unlocking public wealth needs to gain salience in developmental forums.  Structural and systems change has far reaching  impact and can accelerate resolution of bottlenecks in equitable development, and our recovery from the economic crisis.

Pressure points

  • Means for prosperity has not been effectively used in alleviating poverty
  • Opportunity to unlock and redistribute public wealth equitably
  • Improve labour productivity to be globally competitive; invest in building capacity
  • Need for social and income protection, and higher minimum wages
  • Evolving role of civil society organizations, and youth

Download the full Insight report on Charcha 2020, covering 16 events and 150+ hours of discussion.

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