Monday, 6 July, 2009

Poor man's business channel

Why isn't there be a TV channel or a newspaper aimed at people who don't play the stock market but are, nevertheless, interested in the economy and business. Particularly, those who don't believe that everything that favours business are 'reforms' and anything that favours poor people is a 'sop'. 

That doesn't mean it'd stay away from the stock market. However, it does mean that analysts will take off their rose tinted spectacles while looking at Dalal St. 

Importantly, it'll have a heavy dose of technology, investigating it's impact on business. Let me take a specific example to explain what I'm getting at. Ambani is considered a great visionary because he gifted us with cross-country phone calls that cost less than a post-card. What is less well remembered is that other operators matched his prices all most immediately. One strongly suspects that the operators already had the technology to provide cheap calls; it's just that they didn't want to pass on the savings to consumers. Ambani had the foresight and the financial muscle to break the cartel, real or imaginary, and all credit to him for that. All the same, let's give technology its due too. 

More importantly, telling people what can be done should encourage them to ask why it's not being done. 

Similarly, we need economists who are not on the right of Ronald Reagen. Again, let me pick an example to explain what good that'd do. Every 'free market' columnist urges the government to close down all government schools, privatise education, and give education coupons or cash handouts to the poor to educate their children. Their pet justification is that the government schools are nothing but a drain on the tax-payers' money. (It helps that income tax-payers rarely send their children to government schools.) 

That read ok till I read Jayati Ghosh's column, titled Services for All, in this fortnight's Frontline. Says she, "It is often pointed out that the quality of education in government schools is poor and occasionally abysmal, but it is rarely noted that this closely tracks the spending per student. The Kendriya Vidyalaya system is run by the government, and there are few complaints about its quality. Yet this is a privileged part of the government school structure, with the cost per child currently in excess of Rs.13,000 per annum. By contrast, most school education in the country is operated on a pittance, of an average of around Rs.600 per student per year. So it is not surprising that there are inadequate facilities and uneven quality of teaching in such schools."

More such hard facts need to be put before us. 

But how would such a poor man's business channel make any money? Should it be a public service channel, run on 'government largesse'? Well, why can't it run like entertainment and sports channels run? On ads for things other than mutual funds?

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