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'Assam is India's window to South-East Asia'

The Sentinel

Eminent economists Joseph Eugene Stiglitz and Meghnad Desai say key to Assam's progress lies in proper utilization of its vast resources.

GUWAHATI, Jan 10: At a time when the State is witnessing violent anti-dam protests, eminent economists Joseph Eugene Stiglitz and Meghnad Desai have also expressed the view that considering the geographical location of the State, small and medium dams should be preferred over big dams.

The two economists were in Guwahati on Tuesday to attend a conference on the topic 'Asia Rising: Implications for the World Economy' at the ITA Centre for Performing Arts at Mackhowa. The conference was organized by the Youth Forum on Foreign Policy.

Nobel laureate and Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz, in his interaction with noted economist and author Lord Meghnad Desai and participants, said a holistic approach was needed for sustainable development and for removing the inequalities and disparities that have been on the rise in different parts of the world. The Nobel laureate said governments would have to play a more pro-active role in shaping the economic policies that were more tuned to the hopes and aspirations of the people. "Economic reforms have to address the key issues affecting the people and have to bring about qualitative changes in their economic conditions," he opined.

Stiglitz, while dwelling at length on Assam's huge natural resources, said the State could make remarkable progress if it made use of its resources in a proper way. "Assam is India's window to South-east Asia," he said adding that the State should focus on eco-tourism, organic farming and organic tea plantation in a big way. In this context, Desai while agreeing to Stiglitz's viewpoint said Assam had to make use of its strategic location in reaching out to the countries of South East Asia "for reaping the greater opportunities".

Stiglitz said International Monetary Fund would have to play a pro-active role like the World Bank in focusing more on reducing poverty and inequalities that can cause economic and political upheavals.

Stiglitz stressed on the need for harnessing the natural and human resources in a proper way for the benefit of the people. He underscored the need for restructuring the economy through a slew of reforms aimed at bringing about changes in the living conditions of the common man.

Stiglitz said the driving force behind the success of any economy was the participation of the people in a big way. He echoed the sentiments of Meghnad Desai that participation of civil societies, NGOs and SHGs in the development process can catapult any State or nation towards the path of economic glory and prosperity. The Nobel Laureate while speaking about the economic emergence of the Asian giants, China and India in the global economy, said that to keep the momentum going more emphasis had to be given on investments in human capital, infrastructure development and capital knowledge coupled with high savings. "The gap in per capita income between the Asian countries and the West has to be narrowed down considerably," he added.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said, "More than globalization, localization can address the key problems plaguing a State." He said that his emphasis had all along been on rural economics as the key to sustainable and overall development. "Concern for the poor and needy and bringing about changes in their economic condition is what I feel is basic economics. Bridging the yawning gap between the have and have-nots and removing inequality is what I consider to be of prime importance and the centre of my economics," he said.

The Chief Minister said his government had given thrust on decentralization for people's participation in the development process. "Education, health, communication have been my priorities all along as they can bring about a sea change in development and usher in Gross National Happiness," he added.

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