Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Leadership crisis all around

Everywhere around I look, I see a crisis of leadership. In Bengal, India, in the world, everywhere. There are simply on one who can be a role model for the future generations.

In Bengal, the state is plagued by myriad problems. Primary among them is an acute shortage of cash to pay salaries and pensions to the state government employees. Yet, there is a leadership vacuum to bite the silver bullet and raise taxes and reduce government expenditure. The government and its ministers are busy promising developmental programs for which there is no money! The only way to garner tax resources in the long term is to encourage business prosperity. It is going to be difficult to do this as the government has a stated policy of non-interference into land acquisition. You cannot have big factories without large tracts of contiguous land which the government is unwilling to deliver. So, no one wants to be unpopular in the short term to do things which are important for the long term.

In India, we have been living in suspended animation for the last year and a half. There is a caretaker government and petrified ministers in place headed by a "visiting" PM. I cannot think of a worse PM that India has had to suffer. Dr. Singh may be a good academician but is an awful leader. I hope history judges him kindly, but he runs the risk of going down as the worst performing PM in Indian history.

The opposition is equally dysfunctional. Instead of taking up important issues in and out of Parliament, they keep bickering over who gets to lead the rag-tag coalition. One is now on a India tour in a AC mini-van and for some unknown reason calls it a "rath". Another one is sitting in a one-day fast in a AC hall to spread harmony! There has been a recent emergence of an extra-constitutional group of holier-than-thou people who are hell bent on removing corruption. Although, the goal is surely laudable, I am not sure who will "police-the-police". India needs to take a lot of tough decisions. Everyone knows most of those. Like taxing agricultural income, removing subsidies, building infrastructure. But there is no leader, no government who is willig to do it because they are scared of the short-term impact of taking unpopular decisions. Instead what we get is rate hikes and petrol price rise (and people owning Mercedes Benz worth fifty lakhs run their cars on subsidized diesel)!!

The same story gets repeated in the US. The politicians can't agree to reduce costs and increase taxes. If a family earns 100 dollars and keeps spending 150 dollars, there is only two things that can be done. Either increase the family income or reduce the expenditure. But here again no one wants to take the unpopular decisions involved. Classic case in point is now being played out in Greece. The PM has called for a referendum on the Euro bailout package. He wants to spread the blame to his colleaggues and countrymen of agreeing to a life of misery!

I hope that out of this crisis emerges one (or many) strong leaders who take their respective people to their destiny. But, as of now, I don't see anyone on the horizon.

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