The New Paradigms of Politics

While political ideologies of the past had some sobriety associated with them, today’s world is aggressive and selfish that needs renewed doctrines. The crux of today’s interest is sustenance of power, empires, regime and dynasties. Whatever doctrine helps in this pursuit is acceptable and followed. Do the citizens exist or matter?

Crony Capitalism  [1]

Hand ShakeHistorically, economies have changed from agriculture to industry to service sector, and so have the political ideologies. From feudalism, capitalism, imperialism to socialism, the world has seen many variations. Public experience in all of them has been anything but ecstatic. Democracy is an interesting paradigm. It is a facade hiding all those isms behind the curtain of a glossy manifesto, which speaks of compassion and concern for the citizens. How deceitful, but justifiably so. After all what does democracy offer to the leaders, worries of tenure, fears of loss of power and constant bickering of the people?

It was natural for politicians and leaders to put behind all their worries, and move on. Not for the citizens they serve, but for themselves. They invented a new paradigm for governance; we can call it crony-capitalism. In simple words, capitalists and politicians become cronies for mutual strength.

Ordinary citizens feel that politicians dictate terms to the corporations, but the real story is different. Capitalists finance political parties to win elections, and coerce them to frame policies that benefit the corporations, financially. Making an innocuously looking change in rules or policies, government could open up a volcano of marketing demands, which delivers what was committed at the time of elections. The US president may be compelled to wage wars, because the weapon system manufacturers and the oil lobby will not let him sleep. Who is the master, and who the slave, is obvious. The caucus bends over its back, to ensure that the caucus is not broken, and the empire is sustained. Citizens may enforce change in constitution to introduce recall or any other election reforms, the renewed representatives will again form the nexus, called the shared capitalism.

Public Private Partnership (PPP)

The PPP model is another incarnation of crony-capitalism. The name sounds innocuous so it is a convenient cover. The word public in this term actually implies capitalists or rich establishments; it certainly does not mean the citizens. PPP is well advertised to the masses, to convey that under compulsion of paucity of funds, the government invites private enterprises to join hand in capital-intensive projects or initiatives. Who are the final partners, is an interesting investigation; cronies to say the least and unscrupulous contractors, in general.

The beauty of this arrangement is that this devilish association does not terminate with the closure of the project. It extends to the operations and maintenance stages as well, much against the original definition of the term. Slowly and progressively, but surely, the public side of this association changes and new cronies find entry. Public memory is short, so no one really cares how the project continues. Mark the phrase, the project continues, defying the definition of the word project, which is supposed to have a distinct start and finish.

PPP is the Indian version of the concept Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) of project financing, successfully used in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. This model has the following features:

  • A private entity receives concession from the public sector to finance, design, construct, and operate a facility stated in the concession contract
  • At the end of the concession contract period, the facility is transferred to the government for on-going operations
  • This enables the government to build infrastructure without direct immediate spending on the project
  • It enables the project proponent to recover its investment, operational and maintenance expenses in the project by taking the returns from the users before the project is completely transferred to government for operations. Due to the long period between the project initiation and completion, clauses are built in for cost escalation that may be based both on internal and external variables.

Immense potential exists in this paradigm for funding. Projects for infrastructure, urban or rural development, agricultural cooperatives, natural resource management, health services and education are suited inherently suited for taking up under such arrangements. If the PPP model is deployed with good intentions, a win-win situation exists for all the partners. It can become even more attractive if the end-users, the citizens, become tertiary partners at the funding and progress monitoring stages. Roping in the banking and other financial institutions as partners can raise additional funds. A certain dose of concessions for income tax for the end-user participation can be a good motivation too.

However, the PPP model is not free from demerits. Behind its external facade are present, a whole lot of dark alleys of dishonesty such as delaying the declaration of completion on flimsy grounds, extending the scope of work progressively and playing with the rates of returns. It is mandatory that for smooth functioning of PPP, clear guidelines for accountability and responsibility of different partners be promulgated right in the beginning. Special attention is required for dealing with land acquisition for infrastructure building or for real estate projects.

The PPP model is slowly becoming the mainstay of preferences of funding by the governments. No one seems to mind this arrangement, even when corruption appears rampant, or financial benefits are outweighed by social exploitation. A severe risk also exists here, that of extending the PPP scope to the operation phase of the project, meaning that the government may pass on the control from capital expense stage to the revenue earning stage to its cronies. They may then fiddle with the maintenance level agreements and other regulatory controls. Is this not direct capitalism?

Conclusion

Life has been passing through different phases of economies and political paradigms. The present times bring us to the political paradigm of crony capitalism that flourishes under the garb of democracy. What crony capitalism does to the natural resources, the PPP model does to the infrastructure; both consume them. It is a difficult choice for the citizens to support or oppose these new paradigms, since the intentions behind every project might be different; noble or devilish.

Citizens have to determine how much they would like to participate in the process of governance. Let us not forget that in the end citizens run various departments of the government and manage work in corporations. It is therefore important for the citizens to understand the big picture and the forces that pull the present governance in different directions.

If it is so difficult to just describe or understand political doctrines, will it not be a monstrous task to follow strictly a given doctrine in practice. But who cares, a combination of all will do. Whether the political arena is a whirlpool or a rollercoaster, it is for you to judge.


[1] Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) Italian dictator – Modern fascism should be properly called corporatism, since it is the merger of state, military and corporate power

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