New Delhi: It is time to reimagine the economic model we follow, keeping the poor and marginalized sections of society as its centrepiece rather than trying to hurry back to the pre-covid scenario marked by income inequality, automation-led job losses and climate change, said Nobel laureate and founder of Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank Muhammad Yunus in a conversation with former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday.
Yunus who set up the bank that gives credit based on trust and without collateral to the poorest in rural Bangladesh said that the coronavirus pandemic has given an opportunity to think anew. This, he said, was a “make or break” chance for a new inclusive economy.
“Now, let’s go a different way… this is the time to take bold decisions, outrageous decisions right now,” Yunus said in the conversation.
Yunus’s comments came in the backdrop of one of the biggest migrant workers crisis which the country has witnessed in the recent history, including thousands of them walking trans-state to reach homes during the national lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic.
“We have to recognize these people (migrant workers). Economics doesn’t recognize these people. They call it informal sector. Informal sector means we have nothing to do with them, they are not part of the economy. Economy begins with the formal sector, we are busy with formal sector,” he said, adding that there was a need to finance them and take care of them.
While the issue has been a key bone of contention with Opposition parties attacking the government for not doing enough to take care of migrants, the latter has announced a series of steps in the past few weeks for their welfare, including free food grain scheme, jobs scheme in worst-affected districts and special credit facility for street vendors among others.
Gandhi said that the migrant crisis was massive for India. “…the micro entrepreneurs suddenly found themselves stranded, and I spoke to quite a few of them and I saw first-hand what they were going through,” Gandhi told Yunus, adding that India had missed a ‘huge opportunity’ as a nation by not having a reset approach to the situation.
Gandhi has started a series of video conversations where he engages with experts on sector-specific issues to discuss the socio-economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. In the past, he has engaged with former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan, Nobel Prize winning economist Prof. Abhijit Banerjee, managing director of Bajaj Auto Ltd Rajiv Bajaj and Nicholas Burns, a former US secretary of state, along with public health experts and nurses.
While some estimates suggest Indian economy will contract in FY21 in the range of 5%, some economists suggested that Indian economy may stay steady or even end up with a marginal growth this fiscal.