Simple Finance and Economics in Our Backyard
Last year, we were assaulted with a concept of corporate strategy or finance thanks to an acclaimed activist. I recollected in Mrs Binalakhsmi Devi Inc: Diversification Plans of the Samaritans about the matter and the lady in question even threatened to sue me but apparently I’m too small a stakeholder worth no return on investment and spared me the legal troubles—but not before setting a trend. Today, from such an unforeseen exchange, we have a whole range of relatable Manipuri approach to finance and economics.
First, a recap from the last year.
DON’T PUT ALL YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET For self-help media junkies, Warren Buffett is the god who preached that mortals must never test the depth of water with both their feet. Following the command there are people in the enviable social worker fraternity, who are putting the ‘eggs’ in different baskets and efficiently testing the water with one project, no, one foot at a time. For example, invest in helping those who are a victim of armed conflicts and if there are opportunities, spend resources in those of resistance against illegal development projects. Ol’ Buffet must be proud but we have some more issues.
Matter: Movements and Modifications
Anybody who read economics in high school would be familiar with the concept of supply and demand. For instance, if India supplies more army personnel then it can meet its demands of so-called national security. Alternatively, the more the need for security the higher is the chance for endorsing militarisation regardless of the political system that the State claims to define—and the more the conflict is institutionalised, the easier it is for the power-brokers to take the laws into their hands.
This write-up aims to see the outward manifestation of simple economic and financial entities that can be juxtaposed with life and living in Manipur.
DONATION PRECEDES PRODUCTION A few years ago, an Indian bureaucrat (refer to Manipur: The Way Out by GK Pillai) stated clearly how New Delhi is OK as long as there is a group of marionettes a.k.a. the freeloading and bonded political class in Imphal though these might not be the exact expression he had used. However, it is obvious, as in the case of complex routes of production preceding consumption, the method of doling out freebies, grants and aids follows a long process depending on factors such as which political party is in power in New Delhi.
Thanks to UPA, the Ibobi-led government comprising different fronts in each term was in power for fifteen long years from 2002 to 2017. In this context, the newly elected N Biren Government has shown how much credibility is there in the capacity to convince New Delhi. Returning to Imphal on 28 March after meeting Narendra Modi, he declared that the PM had assured New Delhi will continue the 90:10 funding pattern (but not before revealing proudly that Modi had also agreed to dole out ₹140–150 crore shortly)!
Comparing to the discipline of economics, it might still be a chicken-and-egg story as to whether production comes first or consumption does. But it is unambiguous in our case: the ‘donation’ comes first, way long before production or consumption as our collective life steers towards a consuming society with no produce of our own with no self-control.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND This is the concept most familiar to all of us. So, precisely, we have been witnessing the rise—or simply the supply—of human rights and civil society organisations, meeting the demands of a conflict zone. It sounds so lame if we put it this way but still we cannot ignore the irony. In our towns, more organisations should imply lesser cases of violence but we know reality tells a different tale.
Picture this. There’s a trigger-happy police officer who would obey his superiors and go to all extent to do his job, show his audacity and be a role model of murderers. He would as well ‘supply’ the deaths and then on the other, his son will come out as a rights defender preaching and campaigning about peace and love while making the grounds to meet the demands—or any value that is opposite to his father.
If this sounds like an ugly figment of imagination, you might want to re-read the above paragraph with a frame of reference on Manipur. Supplies meet demands just as would the majority of rivers do with the Loktak and the cycle continues.
Read related articles:
• The Tarzan’s Theory of Relativity
• The Generation of Contradictions
• Non-Governmental Inc.
THE ULTIMATE MOTIVATION In economics, every element can be assigned to one factor: motive and this is defined as the desire of disconnection between the rich and the rest.
Manipur is one of the most backward economies in the Indian subcontinent but that does not imply the presence of equality; just as in rampant underdevelopment implies a sense of all-round poverty. Leading from the front is the threesome gang of government officials, contractors and bureaucrats who have redefined the concept of daylight robbery in the town. If India is a land of bullock carts and Mercedes Benzes, then Manipur is that of luxury and primitivity. The best that even its capital Imphal resembles is a shanty town with utter lack of amenities and infrastructure.
A total of 54 millionaires stood in the recently concluded Assembly poll in the first phase and another 29 in the second phase held on 4 March and 8 March respectively. The state—located in a conflict zone and known for suffering from industrial sickness—has a projected population of 3.243 million in 2017, according to the 2011 Census data. Out of this, 70.79% live in the rural area. Compare these figures in the land where bribery and corruption are deeply institutionalised, violence and protests are rampant, unemployment is filthily rife, growth is dismal and there has been a protracted armed rebellion. None matters apparently and going by the government intervention, what it does is to work on its motive best known to them and their hangers-on.
EARN MORE SPEND LESS For an elected representative in the largest democracy of the world, there are abundant financial privileges—from salaries and allowances to sources like the MLA Local Area Development Fund. However, like a true financial wizard, our leaders must have to spend less than they earn or else their entry into politics is meaningless. In a land where ‘fiscal self-reliance’ is an alien term and when most of us are unaware about the difference between general and development administration, the benefit of doubt goes to those who have access to the money. What else would explain the utter lack of policy initiative in the presentation of annual budget?
Under the MLA-LAD Scheme, each representative receives crore of rupees but what have we seen in concrete terms apart from those community halls in each neighbourhood? Those who believe in the N Biren Government would want to ignore it but then, for us, it will be foolish to expect so much from politicians and at the end of the day, we just turn your eyes away from their monkey business as they set new benchmarks in finance and economics.
It would not be a surprise if our representatives or those who claim to represent us come up with their creativity by appropriating universal ideals in a think-global-act-local style. So here we are again: as the definition states, economics shows us how limited supplies are matched with our unlimited demands. Governments would come and go but what matters is the concept of utility in our collective life; but how do we fare in that ‘subject’? We can start with the question of how much our lives are worth for—how much do we cost?