Rev. Dr. Prakash Louis, SJ
THE CONSTITUTION OF INDIA [The Preamble]
We the People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRTIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all;
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and the
integrity of the nation
In our constituent Assembly this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this constitution.
Locating the Issue
According to the recent UNICEF estimate, India accounts for 31% of the developing world’s children who are stunted and 42% of those who are underweight. Under weight is highest in the following categories: 55% among the Tribals, that is, the Indigenous Peoples 48% among the Dalits, that is, the excluded community, 43% among the OBCs and 34% among the others. Sadly, only a handful of starvation and nutrition related deaths get reported by the media. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed it as ‘national shame’. On the one hand, India is emerging as a super power and on the other hand,
In Poland, the exodus of workers to the developed countries for higher-paying jobs is so massive (as many as two million Poles have left the country since 2004), President Lech Kaczynski had trouble finding anyone to paint his apartment in Warsaw (Harold L. Sirkin: 89). But at the same time those who remain are subjected to unemployment and underemployment.
While the Managing Directors (MDs) of the State Bank of India get a salary of about Rs. 33,000 a month, the MD of ICICI Bank gets a whopping Rs. 7.8 lakh. While there is certainly a case for upgrading the salaries of these MDs it would become necessary to review the basic principle underlying the salary structure of all public sector bodies. In the process of implementing financial sector reforms, we have unfortunately tied to mimic many American banking practices, irrespective of their relevance to the Indian ethos. Indian reformers quote with glee American management guru, James Goldsmith’s well-known phrase: “If you pay peanuts, you only get monkeys”. It is time that we debunk this myth (N.A. Mazumdar: 177).
Globalisation, liberalisation and neoliberalism have become the most discussed and debated concepts today. These three processes are seen to have interactional impact on the entire global family. But the important facet of the evolution of these processes is that their area of influence is not just limited to economic sphere alone but seems to affect the entire societal processes. While the debate about the very process, the objective, the path pursued, and the consequences have been highlighted in various forums, globalisation and neoliberalism as a phenomenon escapes any simplistic understanding. In this paper an attempt is made to understand globalisation and neoliberalism and their impact on the people of Asia as well as the role of the church in understanding and addressing these issues. Due to obvious reasons, the focus of debate would be India while some references would be made to Asia. It is also important to state here that what is discussed here is preliminary in nature, a further researched and reformulated would be available in due course of time.
Understanding Globalisation and Neoliberalism
The term globalization used in 1985 by Theodore Levitt has assumed various meaning to different people. Roland Robertson speaks of globalization as a process by which the world is becoming more and more “a single place”. At the risk of adding to the fragmentation in its connotation we can distinguish between two different generic classes of meanings attributed to it. First, the spread of human civilization, artifacts, institutions, patterns of living, information and knowledge to span the planet earth. Second, a policy deliberately aimed at spreading certain institutions, modes of doing business, producing and trading commodities, services and information across all the states of the world.
From this type of analysis we can distinguish the following features: 1) there is a spread of international trade in goods and commodities. 2) People migrate from one country or region to another temporarily or permanently. 3) Money or means of payment are exchanged on an increasing scale between different countries and regions. 4) Capital flows from one country to another to help produce goods and services. 5) Finance without direct link with production of goods and services flows between countries. 6) Trans-National Corporations or TNCs have replaced MNCs which increasingly engage in the activities listed above. 7) Technology is traded between different countries. With the WTO frontier technologies take an increasingly proprietary form. 8) The spread of print and electronic media. 9) The growth of international trade and production of services of all kinds like shipping, insurance, banking, health care and of course finance ( A.K. Bagchi: p 3219).
Some Salient Features of Globalisation
- The essence of globalisation: Globalizers believe in one, free, interconnected, united and democratic world which makes rapid economic progress by the integration of the economies of the nations into one global economy. This is achieved via the free international flow especially of financial capital, technology and information and then of goods, services, labour and culture to all the world’s resources and markets. These markets operate as one, free, global, transnational market. Globalization as a cultural process means that the global flow of capital and technology is accompanied by the flow of related tastes, ideas, even cultures and values across boundaries which reshape local political institutions, social relationships and cultural patterns, hoping to lead to a single global system and global unity. The vision, process and project are being marketed by globalizers as the road to paradise.
- The principles of globalisation: Globalization operates on the following principles. a) Liberalization: the doors of a country are open for the Transnational Corporations to carry on their trade without any restriction. b) Privatization: the state withdraws itself from industry and business and allows the private companies to manage the entire affairs on their own. c) Deregulation: government controls are dismantled on business activities, so that the market can have a free hand in regulating the economy.
- Neo-capitalism: in a sense, globalisation is neo-capitalism. It is new in that sense that today’s global integration is qualitatively different and new for reasons of scale, intensity and rapidity of the process involved with its consequent negative and positive effects on people and the environment.
Before we move on to understand neoliberalism, let us try to understand liberalism. Liberalism is understood as a radical conception of capitalism that tends towards an absolutist view of the market, transforming it into the means, the method, and the end of all rational and intelligent human behaviour and in the course of time the social behaviour. Based on this conception, people’s lives, views, the function of the society and the policy and priorities of the government are subordinated to the market. Once this market becomes absolute it is unfettered, with no financial, labour, technological, administrative or human restrictions. This also in the course of time converts some ideas of the economists of modern capitalism into a total ideology. Liberalism is essentially an economic doctrine that gives paramount importance to macroeconomic variables such as growth and inflation with no attention to income distribution, job security, food security, environmental degradation, people’s right or justice.
“Neo-liberalism” is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so. Although the word is rarely heard in the United States, you can clearly see the effects of neo-liberalism here as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer (Elilzabeth Martinaz: p1). In common parlance, neoliberalism is a term describing a market-driven approach to economic and social policy based on neoclassical theories of economics that stresses the efficiency of private enterprise, liberalised trade and relatively open markets, and therefore seeks to maximize the role of the private sector in determining the political and economic priorities of the state.
At one level neoliberalism is an ideology. Literally “neoliberalism” means the “new liberalism”, and “liberalism” in its continental European (as opposed to North American) sense means “free market economics”. As such it is a resurrection of the orthodox “laissez faire” economic ideology that prevailed until the great slump of the 1930s. This ideology contended that free market economies will run smoothly, steadily producing more wealth. Any problems that arise are supposedly a result of “unnatural monopolies” (especially in the labour market), which prevent the free movement of prices and wages pulling supply and demand together. State intervention is seen as distorting the economy and has to be restricted to defending private property, national defence and, in the monetarist version of neoliberalism, overseeing the money supply (Chris Harman: p 4).
The main points of neo-liberalism include:
- The rule of the market: Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say “an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone.” It’s like Reagan’s “supply-side” and “trickle-down” economics — but somehow the wealth didn’t trickle down very much.
- Cutting public expenditure for social services like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply — again in the name of reducing government’s role. Of course, they don’t oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.
- Deregulation: Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminish profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job.
- Privatisation: Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.
- Eliminating the concept of “The Public Good” or “Community” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.”
The neoliberal programme draws its social power from the political and economic power of those whose interests it expresses: stockholders, financial operators, industrialists, conservative or social-democratic politicians who have been converted to the reassuring layoffs of laisser-faire, high-level financial officials eager to impose policies advocating their own extinction because, unlike the managers of firms, they run no risk of having eventually to pay the consequences. Neoliberalism tends on the whole to favour severing the economy from social realities and thereby constructing, in reality, an economic system conforming to its description in pure theory that is a sort of logical machine that presents itself as a chain of constraints regulating economic agents (Pierre Bourdieu: p 1).
The South Asian Reality
Many communities and countries have been successful in combining tradition and modernity. They have also done well in terms of blending development and dignity of the people. While many of the developed countries are reeling under economic crisis, many of the Asian countries have managed to carry on irrespective of crisis at domestic and international economy. This is the case of the South Asian countries. In India, the literacy rate has grown from 32% in 1970s to 55% in 1990 and 65% in 2000. The gross enrolment rate in India has increased from 68% in 1970s to 99% in 2000. Many other countries had primary net enrolment ratios over 80% and more.
But the picture is not a positive one on all accounts. Some of the South Asian governments are among the top borrowers of multi-lateral assistance and have been so for many years. Often times, the citizens are not even aware of this borrowing and the danger that looms large over them. At the domestic front, there is also the neglect of providing the basic amenities to the people. Human security means having protection against unpredictable events that disrupt lives and livelihoods. Few resources have a more critical bearing on human security than water. Even now over 20% of people of South Asia do king not have safe drinking water. Progress depends on setting attainable targets in national plans that are backed by financing provisions and strategies for overcoming inequality. But inequality in these countries is on the increase leading to multiple crisis and conflict and in some places, low intensity war. These countries and the world have the technology, the finance and the human capacity to remove these inequalities and provide better life with dignity for all.
- Impact of Globalistion and Neoliberalism
As stated above, globalisation is a complex phenomenon.
It is expedient at this stage to examine some of the impact of globalisation and neoliberalism.
Globalisation and neoliberalism violates the rights of the vulnerable communities in any country. For instance, globalization violates the dalits, that is, the untouchables or the excluded communities’ right to a standard of living. After India opted for the implementation of the structural adjustment programme (SAP), there has been a steep increase in the prices of essential commodities. However, the wages of the dalits have not gone up much. Hence, the percentage of people living below the poverty line jumped from 35% to 41.7% during 1991-1992. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) estimates that 47% of the children in India below the age of five were malnourished in 1998-99. Similarly, a study by the Indian Council for Medical Research and the Institute of Population Studies estimates that 53% of children in that age group are undernourished. By introducing the hybrid varieties of seeds, the middle and small peasants have lost their traditional sources of agriculture and are ending up in debt. This leads them to commit suicide.
Agriculture is one area, where the impact of globalization and liberalisation has been felt the most. In a country like India where over 70% of the population is dependent upon agriculture, commercialization of agriculture goes against food security. In any situation, sustainable agriculture is based on judicious planning of natural resources such as land, water and agricultural bio-diversity of plants and animals. But commercialization of agriculture is based on growing crops which are in line with the demand in the market. In this case, earning more profit is the objective. This denies the scope for sustainability of the natural resources.
Food security is another area liberalisation and globalisation are making big impact. The first priority of any country should be domestic food security and not export. But now with GATT agreement all these are open up for market. Once food is also left to be controlled by market, then there are other consequences. Globalization will homogenize food taste and this in turn will affect the types of crops to be cultivated. In India people know what to eat for summer and what to consume for winter. But these items are not produced then the total change will take place in health.
Researches are today conducted to identify the impact of globalisation on trade unions and on the labourers. In South Asia the trade union movements have been formed as part of a largely colonial heritage of industrial relations legislations. Given the relative lack of economic success in this part of the world, and the abundant labour markets, the trade union movement has a weak presence in enterprises as well as outdated institutions at that national level. In the absence of new strategies, dismal labour market conditions and gradual exclusion from national political movement compel the trade union movement to cling to past achievement (Henk Thomas: p 236). Once the trade unions function like this, they are not able to address the issues of the labourers. If this is the case of the organised sector, what would be the state of the unorganised sector is any ones guess.
It is expedient at this stage to examine the impact of neoliberalism. We present a few of these for our discussion here. The impact of liberalisation on women is one of the areas which have drawn the attention of social scientists. In a county like India, only about 10% of women are in the organized sector. The rest are in the agricultural and allied activities. With the liberalization policy women will be much more affected than men. Because women through agricultural activities earn enough grain and ensure food security for the entire family. With the arrival of commercialization of agriculture wages will be paid in cash and not in kind. Also some kind of food will not be available to them anymore. Change of food habits too will affect the women the most. Some of the food crops that were ‘collected freely’ will become ‘owned’ and thus out of the reach of the poor women.
Women’s labour will be demanded only for export oriented production with all the other evil consequences that go with that. In the existing economic set up, though 50% of women’s non-monetized labour is not accounted yet, they had controlled over their labour power. Now they will lose out this too. In the new form of economic operation “efficiency” becomes an important element and thus those who are unskilled, semi-skilled, under-skilled will be out of the entire process. This is the case in an ordinary economic setup. But in industries like the food processing and garment export women will be employed and thus labour gets feminized. This also means temporariness of labour, contractual labour, low wages, blocking union and labour organizations etc.
The whole aspect of creating “new women’ or beauty queens out of India is also a systematic attempt to capture the Indian market with consumer goods or to be true cosmetic goods. This is becoming all the more open and powerful in a regime that claims to uphold the ‘sati Savitri’, that is, ‘Goddess’ image of women. While on the one hand, there is an attempt to keep women chained to traditional practices, on the other hand, a small number of women are opened up for world market. Both these processes and outcomes lead to process among women and their empowerment process is further denied.
Impact of privatisation on education is also another area of interest to understand neoliberalism. The Indian Institute of Technologies (IIT) alumni’s have proposed to set up 1 billion dollar that is 4,000 crore Indian rupees to privatize 5 IITs in India. It is significant to note that the IITs are the most prestigious centres of higher education in India. These are also the most subsidized higher education institutions. Two impacts are clearly seen. Since these were public institutions, sponsored by the Government of India, students from different backgrounds had the opportunity to get admitted here. But now only the richest and powerful alone will be able to get admission in these institutions. Further, most of the students go abroad after getting educated in one of the most subsidised institution. This further would drain out the economy in favour of a group of people who in turn do not serve the country [Asian Age 13.12.1999, p1].
But there are those who try to examine both the positive and negative impact of privatisation on education. The retreat of the state and the advance of the market have changed the national context of higher education. The spread of markets is beginning to exercise a significant influence in this area. There are dangers inherent in such commercialisation, but there are also some opportunities of learning from markets. The gathering momentum of globalisation, which has changed the international context, is also beginning to reshape higher education. This too has important, positive and negative, implications for development. Countries should formulate policies for higher education in the pursuit of development, so as to minimise the dangers and capture the opportunities (Deepak Nayyar: p 30).
The impact of liberalisation on political leadership is also another area of probe when discussing neoliberalism. It is reported that the new leadership of Asia, particularly India, has sought legitimacy from its external policies that came to be identified with modernity and change. Thus a Rajiv Gandhi in India or a Banazir Bhutto in Pakistan, and a Sheik Hasina or Begum Zia in Bangladesh sought to use the globally accepted concepts of democracy and technology for their legitimacy. The Sharad Pawar or the Yadavs are the subalterns and thus their leadership is acceptable to the rural voters ([Pioneer 2.5.1999). Thus a particular type of leadership promotes neoliberalism.
In the neoliberal system, the state becomes passive and retreats to the background. It becomes the promoter of market freedom, privatization of public enterprises and utilities. The civil society also becomes the sum of individual consumers who preference must be respected. Market becomes the efficient device to allocate resources and thus finally allocates places too. It is this which is emerging as one of the most dominant features of neoliberalism.
Looking at the Asian reality, Samir Amin argues, the growth in Taiwan and South Korea should be understood in the international context. The important structural changes that took place in these countries, through land reforms, good healthcare and serious elementary education under the US, was aimed to wean away the people from the overwhelmingly attractive alternative to the people in these places. It is important to realise that South Korea alone received more aid from the US than the whole of Western Europe during the Marshall Plan. But since China itself is going into imperialist way aid to South Korea and Taiwan is reduced (Samir Amin).
Before we proceed, it is expedient to take note of the positive and negative aspects of neoliberalism in a particular context. The Jesuit Provincials of Latin America have this to say about the neoliberalism.
Positive elements: modern communication closely links us, high technology presents new possibilities for knowledge and creativity. In contrast to past, the economies of most of our countries have begun to grow again. It should also be acknowledged that these policies have reduced inflation throughout the continent, and progress in trade relations have been made.
The other reality is: 1) it was propagated that material expansion could create hope for all, but in reality it has left multitude of the weaker section in poverty and penury. 2) the economic forces that produce these perverse outcomes tend to evolve into ideologies and convert certain concepts into absolutes. For example: market used to be one of the social institutions which functioned to increase and improve supply and reduce prices but has become the means, method and mechanism that govern human relationship; 3) the liberalization policy considers economic growth and not human living as its goal, it has eliminated comprehensive programmes to generate opportunities for all and instead has opened up avenues for a selected few, it has opened up the borders without adequate protection to the smallest and weakest producers; 4) income, wealth and land tenure has been getting accumulated in the hands of a few, it has also increased unemployed urban masses those who subsist with unstable and unproductive jobs. 5) it has also given rise to social unrest characterized by public protest and strikes. Armed struggle has re-emerged in some areas.
- Alternatives to be looked for
During the last century, the church, educational institutions, public authorities and other powers forced the people to accept the status quo. In the modern era, the mass media is the major player. The effect of mass media is all pervasive. It communicates this message, “There Is No Alternative’ – TINA. James Petras argues in his book Globalisation Unmasked, “there is direct relationship between the number of TV sets in Latin America, the decline in income and the decrease in mass struggle” (N. Namboodiri, p 23). It is this sense created by globalisation and neoliberalism, that there is no alternative to neoliberalism which is being questioned by those who oppose these.
An old Buddhist proverb says that “The key to the gate of heaven is also the key which could open the gate to hell”. Markets and globalisation provide a mix of opportunities and dangers for higher education. Taking clue from these principles, there are serious and systematic attempts are being made to comprehend the globalization and neoliberalism processes and the impact of these. The need to search for alternatives is felt much more now than in the past. In this regard it is stated that there is the need to redefine the foundational principles and practices that underline the alternatives. While one decries the global model one need to search for local and sustainable model of sustenance and development.
- Role of the Church
Church is one of the most globalised global institution. It is a beneficiary of globalisation and at the same time has been speaking out against the evil effects of globalisation. John Paul II has been speaking and writing about globalisation. ‘It is disturbing to witness a globalization that exacerbates the conditions of the needy, that does not sufficiently contribute to resolving situations of hunger, poverty and social inequality, that fails to safeguard the natural environment. These aspects of globalization can give rise to extreme reactions, leading to excessive nationalism, religious fanaticism and even acts of terrorism. All of this is far-removed from the concept of an ethically responsible globalization capable of treating all peoples as equal partners and not as passive instruments. Accordingly, there can be little doubt of the need for guidelines that will place globalization firmly at the service of authentic human development — the development of every person and of the whole person — in full respect of the rights and dignity of all (John Paul II, May 2, 2003).
Church’s understanding of globalisation: Our modern era is marked by the complex phenomenon of economic and financial globalization, a process that progressively integrates national economies at the level of the exchange of goods and services and of financial transactions. In this process, an ever growing number of those involved in the economic sector is prompted to adopt a more global perspective concerning the choices that they must make with regard to future growth and profits. The new perspective of global society does not simply consist in the presence of economic and financial bonds between national forces at work in different countries, which have moreover always been present, but in the pervasiveness and the absolutely unprecedented nature of the system of relations that is developing. The role of financial markets is becoming ever more decisive and central. Following the liberalization of capital exchange and circulation, these market dimensions have increased enormously and with incredible speed, to the point that agents can “in real time”, transfer large quantities of capital from one part of the globe to another. This is a multifaceted reality that is difficult to decipher, since it expands at different levels and is in continuous evolution along paths that cannot easily be predicted (Compendium, 2006).
The positive aspects of globalisation as seen by the social teachings of the Church: Globalization gives rise to new hopes while at the same time it poses troubling questions. Globalization is able to produce potentially beneficial effects for the whole of humanity. In the wake of dizzying developments in the field of telecommunications, the growth of the system of economic and financial relations has brought about simultaneously a significant reduction in the costs of communications and new communication technologies, and has accelerated the process by which commercial trade and financial transactions are expanding worldwide. In other words, the two phenomena of economic-financial globalization and technological progress have mutually strengthened each other, making the whole process of this present phase of transition extremely rapid.
Along with these positive aspects, there are innumerable constraints imposed by globalisation. In analyzing the present context, besides identifying the opportunities now opening up in the era of the global economy, one also comes to see the risks connected with the new dimensions of commercial and financial relations. In fact, there are indications aplenty that point to a trend of increasing inequalities, both between advanced countries and developing countries, and within industrialized countries. The growing economic wealth made possible by the processes described above is accompanied by an increase in relative poverty.
An adequate solidarity in the era of globalization requires that human rights be defended. In this regard, the Magisterium points out that not only the “vision of an effective international public authority at the service of human rights, freedom and peace has not yet been entirely achieved, but there is still in fact much hesitation in the international community about the obligation to respect and implement human rights. This duty touches all fundamental rights, excluding that arbitrary picking and choosing which can lead to rationalizing forms of discrimination and injustice. Likewise, we are witnessing the emergence of an alarming gap between a series of new ‘rights’ being promoted in advanced societies – the result of new prosperity and new technologies – and other more basic human rights still not being met, especially in situations of underdevelopment. I am thinking here for example about the right to food and drinkable water, to housing and security, to self-determination and independence – which are still far from being guaranteed and realized” (Compendium, 2006).
Possible Response by the Church
- Understand the process and the outcomes of globalisation and neoliberalism: It is pertinent to state this fact that even before the Church contemplates of responding to the evil effects of globalisation and neoliberalism, it should invest in understanding these phenomenon in all its dimensions. A comprehensive understanding of these realities would enable the Church to search for alternatives.
- Comprehend the impact of globalisation in different context: It is not tenable to comprehend this reality at a global level. It has to be done at the local and global levels taking into account the specific conditions in which these operate. Though the globalising forces are located in the developed countries, it is the developing countreis that are affected by these. Hence, being localised in terms of understanding and responding at the local, national, regional and global levels would have long term impact.
- Identify the impact of globalisation and neoliberalism on the marginalised and vulnerable communities: Church has always stood for the poor and the marginalised. Hence, any response to globalisation and neoliberalism should be done from the perspective and experience of the poor and the marginalised.
- Be open to a secular approach: It is expedient that the Church be open to a secular approach and play a supportive role in the evolution of responses to globalisation and neoliberalism. Youth, women, lay people, clergy, religious and others from the Church when work closely with the secular world or civil society they should be allowed to go ahead with the mission without any hindrance. This is because, when we work for justice, truth and peace, we spontaneously work for the Kingdom of God.
- Help oppressed communities to assert their identity: It is accepted that there are positive aspects of Hence, the benefits from this needs to be identified and made available for the poor and the marginalised people and nations. But it is also a fact that globalisation is posing a grave threat to the very identity, culture, resources, governance and existence of the poor people and poor nations. Church can play a crucial role in enabling the poor communities and countries to resist these evil effects and assert their identity.
- Search for alternative models of development and well-being: just blaming globalisation or neoliberalism would not lead us to anywhere. It is time that Church engages in searching for alternative models of development and well-being. Many of these experiments are being made by many Christians. These need to be brought together and presented as replicable with necessary changes in other contexts.
- Networking and Lobbying: Networking and building up various forums and platforms to understand and respond to the positive and negative aspects of globalisation is another response that the Church can play an important and lasting role.
Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, shat she has done will be told in remembrance of her” (Mt. 26:6-13)
Rev. Dr. Prakash Louis, SJ
Common Concerns of Bihar
Sadaquat Ashram, Patna,
Bihar, India 800010
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