Whoever decided to invite Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati to speak at the Hiren Mukherjee Memorial Lecture at the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) deserves to be congratulated. Thanks to a friend, I saw the edited excerpts of his speech. It was a good speech delivered with trademark sarcasm and wit. It was good to note that he spoke of the importance of second generation reforms.
From the available version, it appears that he could only give a light treatment to the issue of governance in the country. That is not to say that the proposal he made is anything less serious. One must agree that both the fountain head and the largest source of corruption is contesting elections. Hence, his call for finding legal ways to raise campaign finance is right on the money.
Overall, I hope there is a follow-up discussion and debate on his speech in the Parliament. Or, others should find ways to bring reforms back to the centrestage of the Indian public policy discourse.
I visited his faculty home page at the Colombia University. That led me to find out that he now blogs at ‘The American Interest’. See his latest blog post here. It appears to be a more concise version of his speech at the Indian lower house of the Parliament.
One of the links to his short comment, first written in March 2010 and later modified in July 2010, refers to the IMF revising its stance on the usefulness of capital controls. He mentions that he had never been invited to Jackson Hole conference of the Federal Reserve. That comes across as a striking omission on the part of the Federal Reserve. Professor Bhagwati is a free-market economics but he did not toe the official Washington line on capital flows. If that was the reason for his exclusion, it does not redound to the credit of the Federal Reserve. Check out his comment here.
Prof. Bhagwati’s comment in Project Syndicate on the non-importance of manufacturing drew fairly critical responses and my sympathies lie with those critics. In an interesting coincidence, Gurcharan Das sides with the critics on the importance of manufacturing in his latest blog post dated Nov. 14, 2010 titled, ‘In search of America’s liberty and India’s dharma’.
Finally, Bhagwati’s piece on ‘India or China?’ predictably drew a lot of readership when the English magazine Caijing posted it on their website. The blurb they had given it was a good one:
China’s authoritarian politics means that it cannot profit from the innovations that depend on software, as that is an instrument through which dissent can flourish and become subversive of total control.
The full article is available here.