January 2, 2009

Amartya Sen: RBI has taken right measures

KOLKATA, 30 December: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said here on Tuesday that the counteractive measures taken by Reserve Bank of India to boost the economy in the face of the global economic meltdown were correct, and hoped that the wave of recession would slow down by 2010. Mr. Sen was talking to journalists on the sidelines of a seminar “Have we given up on equity in health?,” organised by the Liver Foundation, West Bengal.

Replying to a question from the audience, Mr. Sen pointed out that the “numbers” of the current meltdown is “nowhere near the Great Depression of 1930.” Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States of America is “one of the biggest expectations for more open-minded policies by the U.S.”

On the country spending just 1.1 per cent of the gross domestic product on public health, he said: “I think there has been deficiency in the healthcare sector…primarily in its inability to mobilise resources, lack of commitment, lack of organisational achievement and that money spent is not spent very well.”He said that when the country’s growth rate was 7 per cent and with its public revenue growing by 8 to 9 per cent every year, there was no reason to cite resource shortage by the States.

Mr. Sen emphasised that more funds should be earmarked for primary healthcare and tackling social problems such as poverty, lack of basic education and gender discrimination, which should be addressed, as they were interlinked with public health.
He said that the signing of the India-U.S. nuclear deal that generated a political storm in the country was “far less important an issue than the poverty affecting the Indians which should be actually addressed to.”

Pointing out that too many things in India were blamed on U.S. imperialism, Mr. Sen said that imperialism was not preventing the country from spending no more than just 1.1 per cent of the GDP in public health sphere. “It cannot be a substitute.”

“Our primary failures are national, to top it there are State failures,” he said, but added that certain States like Kerala and West Bengal had fared than others in some respects. Left Front chairman Biman Bose and Industry Minister Nirupam Sen were present.

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