By Amar Yumnam
Research on the driving forces of growth during the last three decades or so have been fairly robust areas of exploration in Economics recently. Globalisation and its components have been stressed as major boosters for social and economic changes for better. But very recently a very significant nuance of this globalisation process has been found to be important in the short term dynamics for longer term economic health of a country. This relates to the regional collaboration dynamics of a country – trade, financial flows and other economic relationships with the countries in the neighbourhood. One of the best recent examples in this is that of China as to how it has avoided the deep and lasting shocks of the latest global recession. In this the strong economic ties of China with the countries of South East and East Asia have been underlined as of primary significance. By the same token, the experiences of the countries in South East Asia are also being appreciated as important examples of development administration. The health and success of China and these countries are being attributed to the strong regional economic ties developed over the years. In other words, the regional economic ties are being identified as significant and more impactful component within the wider globalisation scenario.
In the light of the above development dynamics emerging from the international experience, an attempt to understand our own scenario would be rewarding. Manipur being in the geographical position linking India with South East and East Asia it would be both urgent and important to do so. Given the necessity of ushering the province into a sustainable development trajectory and the unfolding willy-nilly Indian approach to the improvement of ties touching Manipur with the East Asian and South East Asian countries, the imperative for developing a Manipur perspective to the whole issue is imperative and paramount. This is rather unavoidable as we know it only too well of the Indian phobia of China and the unwillingness to accept the importance of the North East in evolving robust economic ties with East and South East Asian countries. The onus is now on us collectively as well individually for making the best out of the emerging policies of the Look East Policy.
While this is being emphasised, we also need to be alive to some significant home truths of Manipur as well. It is now a place where, because of the prevalence of power outages, the coming of power is being celebrated in a household or a locality as if a valued member of the household or locality has returned after a long stay away in a far-off land. “Mei laklagadi” (if power comes) has entered the common vocabulary of the people here so much so that it is now a major determinant of prevalence of even routine activity and social network activities. But the fact remains that such a scenario is never a foundation for establishing a strong regional economic ties crossing borders.
But a much more serious weakness is emerging relating to the administrative quality of Manipur. It goes much beyond the widely pronounced talk of corruption. It relates to inefficiency, lack of coordination and escaping from responsibilities. The land now has many departments and offices headed by “officers” absolutely illiterate and uneducated about the overall dynamics of official administration. But they are officers and the persons who put signatures on official papers. While their inefficiency cannot be questioned by the subordinate employees, the overall delay and ineptitude in performance does have a telling effect on the subjective well-being of the employees and the societal progress. Further, the offices are marked rather by the absence of coordination within and intra-departments, thereby hampering the achievement of anything significant for the people and land. Besides these intra-departmental weaknesses, there are many inter-departmental ones as well. The inefficiency of the “officers” has certainly made them ineffective in establishing any coordinated effort for social advancement; ‘man does not live by bread alone’ so says the Bible. Now this lack of efficiency and failure to evolve effective coordination for meaningful policy implementation has now taken a new colour. Escaping from responsibility is now a fast emerging mantra among the officers of the land. All these are features which would mar our chances to shape the emerging landscape of wider relationships with the South East and East Asian countries forget about reaping benefits from these.
It is exactly at this juncture that the responsibility of the political leadership becomes paramount. The historical moment demands that this leadership rises to the occasion and provides the kind of leading the administration towards greater responsibility and responsiveness. The larger challenge of taking the people along to a long term development trajectory involving deeper and wider relations with countries across the borders cannot be met unless the house of administration is put in order. This can be done and has to be done solely by the political leadership. This is the first biggest challenge of the new millennium and the first step towards harvesting the fruits of regionalisation in economic relationships. Timing and effectiveness of the corrective interventions are of the essence here.
(Amar Yumnam is the Director of Center for Manipur Studies and Professor of Department of Economics,Manipur University, India)